Jaylan Ford’s Draft Profile | Texas, LB Scouting Report

Texas LB Jaylan Ford has experience and playmaking talent, but how does his in-depth 2024 NFL Draft scouting report stack up with the rest?

Texas Longhorns linebacker Jaylan Ford made plays on the biggest stages of college football as far back as 2021, and now, his 2024 NFL Draft scouting report falls under the microscope.

In a linebacker class that’s somewhat uninspiring on the surface, can Ford give evaluators solace with his experience and all-around utility?

Jaylan Ford Draft Profile and Measurements

  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 242 pounds
  • Position: Linebacker
  • School: Texas
  • Current Year: Senior

Ford only joined the Longhorns as a three-star recruit, but through 2022 and 2023, there weren’t many linebackers at the collegiate level more productive than him.

A native of Frisco and a product of Lone Star High School, burnt orange runs in Ford’s veins. And so when he got the opportunity to play starting football for the Longhorns, after early exposure as a special-teams player, he took it and ran with it.

He showed promise in spurts in 2021, but Ford emerged as a first-team All-Big 12 competitor in 2022, amassing 119 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, two sacks, two pass breakups, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and four interceptions — a number that tied the Texas LB record for picks in a season, originally set by Derrick Johnson.

In 2023, Ford returned as an instrumental piece in the Longhorns’ CFB Playoff run, accumulating 101 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, a sack, two picks, two pass breakups, and a forced fumble.

He again fielded first-team all-conference recognition and was a Butkus Award semifinalist.

Most recently, the Longhorns saw linebacker prospect DeMarvion Overshown head to the Dallas Cowboys in Round 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft. Could Ford rise above his predecessor and be an early-round pick in 2024?

Ford’s Scouting Report

Strengths

  • Long-striding athlete with solid explosiveness and throttle freedom.
  • Flashes the short-area quickness and twitch to break down and recover tackling angles.
  • Has the spatial instincts to track outside zone runs through crowds from the backside.
  • Can throttle up through narrow creases and use his burst to close gaps on ball carriers.
  • Can combat second-level blocks with leverage and use targeted physicality to shed.
  • Flashes the ability to bait moving OL past optimal leverage, then shed and occlude gaps.
  • Has the play strength to absorb moving blocks and recalibrate while tracking in pursuit.
  • Reliable form tackler who uses length, play strength, and energetic leg churn to finish.
  • Able to naturally sink, swivel, and get depth in coverage, and has good hip leverage IQ.
  • Intelligent coverage LB who feels and passes off overlapping routes exceptionally well.
  • Disciplined eye in coverage and can simultaneously process route leverage and the QB.
  • Maintains awareness of blind spots when getting depth and can make plays on the ball.
  • Has shown to quickly key in on QB’s intent and trigger in boundary pursuit.
  • Has the frame to halt momentum on tackles and effectively loads his base beneath him.
  • Can weaponize his searing explosiveness through gaps as a blitzing threat.

Weaknesses

  • Length, while solid, might not be proportionally elite.
  • Good, not great athlete overall, whose margin for error may be a bit slimmer in the NFL.
  • Doesn’t have high-end long-track speed and range, and can be outrun to the sideline.
  • Runs a bit upright in space and can refine his pursuit technique to glean more speed.
  • Could be more consistent channeling full explosiveness out of his stance when triggering.
  • Sometimes second-guesses himself on counters, losing valuable time ahead of reactions.
  • Can be easily baited into the incorrect gaps by runners who press behind blockers.
  • Is sometimes late to correct his gap alignment as runners redirect inside and commit.
  • At times, can better diagnose pulling blockers to anticipate run lanes and attack.
  • In coverage versus RBs, can better stay square at stems and use feet first to match.
  • Sometimes goes on auto-pilot in RAC pursuit and overruns tackling angles.
  • Occasionally is late to recalibrate angles and wrap as a tackler, inviting tackle breaks.
  • Can panic and get tunnel vision on RBs when he loses a step, leaving scramble lanes.
  • Too often lacks a plan as a pass rusher past exploding downhill.

Current Draft Projection and Summary

Ford grades out as an early Day 3 prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft on my board, who could feasibly break into the top 100 with good athletic testing. A multi-year starter at a major program, Ford has the well-rounded profile to generate some appeal from evaluators in a muddled LB class.

At around 6’3″, 242 pounds, and with solid length, Ford has the ideal frame for an NFL LB while boasting the play strength to match. He can combat, stack, and shed blocks at the second level, and he’s also shown he can use his play strength to secure solo tackles and halt momentum.

MORE: 2024 NFL Draft Big Board

Operationally, Ford has a solid foundation across the board. In particular, coverage is where he shines. He’s an exceptional zone coverage defender with great eye discipline, instincts, hinge fluidity, depth and blind-spot awareness, and playmaking chops. But he can make plays in the box, too.

As a run defender, Ford shows glimpses of translatable gap instincts, flowing through congestion with his short-area athleticism and setting up blockers to overset and navigating crowds with throttle control and proactivity. Once he has a runway to the ball carrier, his closing burst can take over.

For Ford, the ceiling evaluation is where questions arise. Though he may be able to glean a bit more speed with better pursuit technique, he lacks high-end sideline-to-sideline range. He’s much more potent with his burst between the hashes and maxes out quickly beyond that realm.

Ford appears as more of a good-not-great athlete, and he doesn’t quite have the elite operational consistency to counteract that. He’s not always fully confident in managing gaps, and as a result, he can be passive and indecisive at times.

MORE: Free NFL Mock Draft Simulator With Trades

Elsewhere, while Ford can execute simulated pressures and maintain a baseline blitzing presence with his burst, he doesn’t have a fleshed-out pass-rush arsenal. In coverage, he doesn’t have the elite recovery capacity or technical synergy to man up RBs and TEs consistently.

There’s a degree of upside with Ford if he can continue to develop, but his ceiling pales in comparison to some of the other, more athletic LBs in the class. Nevertheless, Ford has a floor as a rotational starter with hybrid scheme utility and special teams experience, and he can be a quality starter at his peak.

All the 2024 NFL Draft resources you need — the draft order, the top QBs, the Top 100 prospects, and the full 2024 Big Board — right at your fingertips at Pro Football Network!

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