If you thought the Ford GT was the fastest Ford in the nation, you better think again. Not only is Cincinnati Bearcats running back Jerome Ford a speed merchant on the field, but he’s parked himself firmly in the conversation as one of the top running backs in the class after a sensational first season as a starter. While his ability to go 0-60 in the blink of an eye is impressive, Ford’s NFL Draft scouting report reveals that he has many desirable qualities to be an impact maker at the NFL level.
Jerome Ford NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Running Back
- School: Cincinnati
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height: 5’10 3/4″
- Weight: 209
- Wingspan: 74 3/8″
- Arm: 30 7/8″
- Hand: 8 5/8″
Jerome Ford Scouting Report
Although the 2022 NFL Draft running back class might not have players that command the attention like Najee Harris and Travis Etienne did last year, there’s still a deep group of talented playmakers at the position. Isaiah Spiller and Breece Hall entered the year as potential RB1s, and Kenneth Walker III also comes highly regarded.
Behind them are a gaggle of impressive playmakers that bring their own range of abilities to the position. Within that group sits Cincinnati’s Ford, whose scouting report reveals the requisite traits and attributes to be a successful RB in the NFL. I currently have him tabbed as a top-100 prospect, and here’s why.
It’d be remiss to start Ford’s profile anywhere other than game-breaking speed. His high school testing numbers reveal genuine straight-line speed. This is immediately obvious on tape. There are countless runs where the Cincinnati RB breaks off chunk plays with defenders trailing in his wake. He’s a genuine home-run-hitting threat that will translate well to the next level.
However, it isn’t just in a straight line that Ford is athletically impressive. He possesses quick feet and fluid hips. As a result, Ford has excellent change-of-direction ability. The Cincinnati running back plants his toes, flips his hips, and leaves defenders clutching at the thin air that used to contain the 5’10 3/4″, 209-pound RB. Ford’s quick, explosive, and possesses impressive burst — cutting with no discernible drop-off in speed.
Speed, physicality, football intelligence
While speed kills, physicality saps the will of an opponent. Ford has excellent lower body strength, allowing him to constantly grind out yardage. He possesses fantastic leg drive, rarely stopping on first contact when driving into a pile of bodies. Furthermore, he embraces contact as a runner, routinely lowering his shoulder to initiate contact. His combination of lower body strength and quick feet ensure he demonstrates impressive contact balance both behind and beyond the line of scrimmage.
Ford is also a patient and intelligent running back who routinely demonstrates impressive vision. He’ll utilize every inch behind his blocker before using his athletic ability to burst through a hole. He doesn’t just plow straight into the line and hope for the best. Ford has a good understanding of angles and knows how to manipulate them to remove defenders from the game.
Being an impressive runner is no longer a guarantee of landing a role in the NFL. The league now covets three-down backs who can impact the passing game both as a blocker and receiver. Ford is certainly willing in this regard. He improved as a receiver this past year, and his speed and previous experience receiving are evident in how he runs routes.
As a blocker, Ford’s football intelligence is on display as he seeks out work and often can be seen shifting alignment to meet the man who poses the greatest threat to his quarterback. Ford’s speed also ensures that he gets out to the second level to help pave the way. There are many examples of him acting almost as a lead blocker for Desmond Ridder.
Areas for improvement
There’s no questioning Ford’s ability to play at the NFL level. His combination of speed, physicality, and football intelligence, alongside all the nuances that make for an excellent running back, are within his possession. However, there are some areas of concern and improvement on Ford’s scouting report.
Before the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, I stated that I’d be willing to bet that Ford measured less than his Cincinnati listed weight. Sure enough, he weighed in at 209 pounds compared to the 220 pounds listed by the Bearcats. While he has a strong and muscular lower body as alluded to earlier in his scouting report, Ford doesn’t have that “bowling-ball build” that his listed weight and height would have you believe.
This is apparent as a blocker. While Ford displays excellent lower body strength as a runner, he’s routinely upended when blocking. As I said before, he’s willing in this regard. However, he can be thrown up in the air or straight into the dirt too many times. Additionally, rather than squaring up as a blocker, he’ll lead with his shoulder, which does little to halt his opponent.
Although he’s improved as a pass catcher this season, Ford doesn’t feel like a natural catcher of the ball. There’s an awkwardness to how he receives the ball that he’ll need to work on if he’s to be considered a three-down back in the NFL. He appeared to improve this area at the Senior Bowl, as commented on by the PFN team in attendance in Mobile.
Ford’s Player Profile
Although Ford is garnering attention as an ascending NFL Draft RB prospect, his future at the position hasn’t always been so straightforward. A Tampa native, he was a standout rusher at the youth league level. But when he transitioned to Armwood High School, Ford found himself occupying a multitude of positions.
In fact, until his senior year, he was primarily a wide receiver on offense while playing safety on defense. By his own accounts, Ford wasn’t a particularly good receiver either. Despite this, he secured 17 catches for 271 yards and 3 touchdowns as a high school junior in 2016.
What was apparent from a young age was that Ford had exceptional athletic ability. He recorded a 4.4-second 40-yard dash while at Armwood. Furthermore, he registered a 10.61-second 100-meter time.
That speed served him well — not just as a running back in his senior year but as a kick returner, too. He scored a kick return touchdown during the state semifinals that secured Armwood’s passage to the state championship.
Versatility leads to opportunity
As a result of his versatility, Ford was tabbed as an all-purpose back in the 2018 recruiting class. While 247Sports adorned him with four-star status, some recruiting sites only viewed Ford as a three-star player. Nonetheless, he wasn’t short of interest. A March 2016 offer from USF began a cycle that included over 20 offers.
Those teams included his eventual destination of Cincinnati. Still, with a reputation as an RB factory for the NFL Draft, Ford committed to Alabama in December 2017. Yet, it wasn’t just the professional opportunity afforded to him in Tuscaloosa that formed his decision to roll with the Crimson Tide.
“Coach [Nick] Saban really takes care of his players,” Ford told Andrew Bone of BamaInsider.com. “My mom and I really loved that. It was all about who could take care of me as if I was their own kid. Coach Saban does that. My decision was really based on Coach Saban and the way he treats his players.”
Ford’s college football career
Saban and Alabama also have a reputation for not playing their new recruits much in their first season with the program. Despite losing Bo Scarbrough to the NFL Draft, Ford entered an RB room that consisted of future NFL stars Josh Jacobs, Najee Harris, and Damien Harris.
As a result, Ford saw action in just four games before taking a redshirt in 2018. Although he made his debut against Louisville, he really made an impression against Louisiana. The running back tallied 33 yards on just 3 carries, including a then-career-long 15-yard rush.
Ford’s performances in limited action ensured his first career start in 2019. He led the team against Duke with 64 yards on 10 carries, securing his first career touchdown.
Further scores would come against Southern Miss and Western Carolina. However, he was again limited to four appearances, tallying 114 rushing yards on 24 carries. With Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. dominating the RB room, Ford entered the transfer portal.
Ford proves a hot commodity in the transfer portal
Former four-star running back recruits are always a hot commodity, and teams that had pursued Ford found themselves vying for his signature once more. He didn’t remain in the transfer portal long, however. One team had left a lasting impression on Ford from his first experience on the recruiting trail.
The Bearcats already had a No. 1 RB in Gerrid Doaks, ensuring that Ford was again resigned to backup duties. Nonetheless, being a backup for Cincinnati yielded more results than in Alabama. During his first season with the Bearcats, Ford appeared in 10 games before making his first start for the program in the Peach Bowl loss to Georgia.
Even before the 79-yard touchdown in that game, Ford had made his mark. During the regular season, the Cincinnati RB rushed for 116 yards and 2 touchdowns against Memphis. Ford made his presence felt with a touchdown in the AAC Championship Game win over Tulsa. Furthermore, he routinely displayed his explosive nature, with 4 rushing touchdowns of over 20 yards.
Ford’s NFL Draft ascension
With Doaks headed to the NFL with the Miami Dolphins, Ford assumed the lead back role for the 2021 college campaign. In doing so, he had a breakout season that saw a rapid ascension of his NFL Draft stock. Setting the tone for the year, he opened up with consecutive 100+ yard days against Miami (OH) and Murray State, the first of five such days, including an AAC Championship MVP performance against Houston.
As he helped Cincinnati to the biggest stage in college football, Ford put himself into the national consciousness. In his final season with the Bearcats before entering the 2022 NFL Draft, the speedy running back tallied 1,319 rushing yards at 6.1 yards per carry. Meanwhile, he found the end zone 19 times with an additional rushing touchdown. A first-team All-AAC honoree, he earned an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Ford impressed the Pro Football Network team on the ground in Mobile, earning praise for being slippery in red-zone drills and for his pass-catching prowess. Having missed the game due to the birth of his daughter, Ford rocked up at Indianapolis for the NFL Combine, where he showcased his speed with a 4.46-second 40-yard dash time amid an otherwise middling testing performance (31″ vertical, 9’10” broad, 6.95 Relative Athletic Score).
The “best of the rest” moniker is very much up for grabs in an RB class that features a near consensus top-three players. With less than two weeks to go until the 2022 NFL Draft, Ford is the current RB4 on the PFN Top 300 Big Board and the 96th overall prospect in the class. His size, physicality, speed, and pass-catching prowess should ensure he hears his name called in the late Day 2/early Day 3 range.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Jerome Ford
Positives: Well-rounded ball carrier with the size and speed to play on Sundays. Strong carrying the ball, breaks tackles, and carries defenders for extra yardage. Falls forward when tackled. Possesses terrific short-area quickness with the ability to set defenders up and make them miss. Patiently waits for blocks to develop, uses them all over the field, and possesses a burst of speed.
Plays much faster than his 40 time, beats defenders into the open field, and can run to daylight. Finds the running lanes, turns it upfield, and possesses the agility necessary to turn the corner. Quickly gets into pass routes, adjusts to errant throws, and consistently makes catches with his hands. Comes away with the difficult reception downfield at full speed.
Negatives: Turned in just a single productive season at Cincinnati after transferring from Alabama. Not a truly creative ball carrier and must improve his blocking.
Analysis: Ford is a physical specimen who produces as a ball carrier and pass catcher. He comes with tremendous upside and will be a late Day 2 selection but can be starting in the NFL a year or so down the road.