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Paris Ford, Safety, Pittsburgh – NFL Draft Player Profile

Following his opt-out from the 2020 college football season, where does Pitt’s Paris Ford sit in the 2021 NFL Draft safety class?

Paris Ford, Safety, Pittsburgh - NFL Draft Player Profile
DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 26: Pitt Panthers defensive back Paris Ford (12) holds the winner's trophy during the awards ceremony at the conclusion of the Quick Lane Bowl game between the Pitt Panthers and the Eastern Michigan Eagles on December 26, 2019 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. Pitt defeated Eastern Michigan 34-30. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

While the Pittsburgh Panthers are not a household name in the college football landscape, the NFL world is covered with former talented Panthers. From Aaron Donald to Darrelle Revis to Larry Fitzgerald, Pitt is a place that consistently produces NFL-level talent. All these stars played significant roles for the Panthers, and more talented players from Pittsburgh are on their way. Some defensive backs, including Avonte Maddox, K’Waun Williams, and Jordan Whitehead, hailed from Pittsburgh. The next in line for potential NFL Draft glory is Panthers safety Paris Ford.

Paris Ford NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Safety
  • School: Pittsburgh
  • Current Year: Redshirt Junior
  • Height: 6’0
  • Weight: 197 pounds
  • Wingspan: 76 4/8″
  • Arms: 32 3/8″
  • Hands: 9 1/2″

Tony Pauline’s Paris Ford Scouting Report

Positives: Forceful safety who displays terrific range in center field and comes with a large upside. Physical, always looks to get involved and attacks opponents. Quick and fluid pedaling in reverse, easily moves about the field and goes sideline to sideline. Possesses an outstanding closing burst of speed and flashes on the scene. A vicious run defender who drives his shoulders through ball handlers and brings them down at the point of attack.

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Negatives: Does not consistently take proper angles to the action. Does not correctly time his pass defenses. Overcommits to plays and gets caught out of position. Tested horribly during pro day workouts, showing little in the way of athleticism or long speed.

Analysis: Ford possesses the size and football skills to be used as a strong or free safety, but he must improve his instincts and play smart football on every snap. He comes with upside but will need time and proper coaching to develop his game. His pro day numbers will drop him at least three rounds in the draft.

Paris Ford Player Profile

Paris Ford was a consensus four-star prospect coming out of high school and has secured himself as one of the best safeties in the 2021 NFL Draft. If you were from Western Pennsylvania and were around the High School football scene, you knew who Ford was. Playing at local sports powerhouse Seton LaSalle, Ford racked up numbers and offers, including offers to play at Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, and other national powerhouses.

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In his Senior season, Ford transferred to Steel Valley, another state powerhouse. It was in his Senior season where Ford helped Steel Valley all the way to a State Championship. The Ironmen mercy-ruled every team they faced that season, including a 49-7 rout of Southern Colombia in the State Championship. Behind Ford’s 92 rushing yards, 41 receiving yards, two touchdowns, seven tackles, and three tackles for loss, Steel Valley won it all.

Paris Ford’s college football career at Pitt

When signing day came, Ford shunned all of the top schools and committed to his hometown school in Pitt. Ford was not shy about his feelings, indicating that he wanted to play at Pitt since he was in sixth grade. The first two years of his stint at Pitt were nothing to write home about, as Ford redshirted his first season. The next season Ford was expected to get into the lineup, but it never came. Ford only played four games but ended up getting five special teams tackles.

Then came his breakout 2019 season. Ford went off and quickly established himself as one of the best safeties in the ACC as he earned All-ACC honors. His big 11 tackle day in Happy Valley was an impressive standout performance. However, his two-interception day against Duke included a pick-six that put him firmly on the national radar.

Even after he was ejected in that game due to a targeting call, Ford made it known he was a playmaker who would lay the wood. Throughout the rest of the season, Ford would continue to have great games. Against Miami, Ford registered a career-high four pass deflections. Even in a 28-0 loss for Pitt in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech, Ford’s speed and big hits made him known around the country. After a fantastic 12 tackle game against Eastern Michigan in the Quick Lane Bowl, Ford positioned himself to be a top-100 NFL Draft pick possibly.

Paris Ford opts out, ending his 2020 season

Following a four-game losing streak by the Pitt Panthers, Paris Ford decided to end his season prematurely and opted out of the Panthers’ final four games to focus on preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft. This means that Ford did not get to put out tape against Clemson, but given his strong tape already on the season, even a strong game against the Tigers would not have done much to improve his stock. It is a move that drew controversy, but made a lot of sense for Ford.

Ford proved he can work as a deep safety and in multiple coverage schemes. His new 2020 tape that proved he can work better in these zones with his athleticism and ball skills is a huge part of why his stock has improved. He is no longer just viewed as a box safety that can come downhill and make big tackles.

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On the contrary, Ford showed he is capable in that role, in the slot, and as a deep safety in both Cover 1 and Cover 2 schemes. That versatility will be viewed as a huge plus among NFL teams.

The NFL Combine was viewed as a potential make or break for Paris Ford’s 2021 NFL Draft stock. With the cancellation of the combine, the opportunity to prove his athletic prowess came at the Pitt Pro Day. Unfortunately for Ford, he posted some distinctly average-poor numbers that raise some serious questions about his stock. Furthermore, rumors that he had failed to prepare for some of the drills will throw up red flags during the process.

Paris Ford’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft

Ford’s versatility proves he can play anywhere in essentially any scheme. More off, he has proven he can work as a middle-of-the-field robber, a two-high safety, a slot cornerback, and the big hitter in the box. NFL coaches are going to love that versatility on the back end. Ford’s ball skills and athleticism allow him to do all of those things at an NFL level.

As such, teams that love to mix and match coverages could look here with intrigue. As a result, the Las Vegas Raiders make a lot of sense for Ford. Additionally, Ford has the type of physicality that the Raiders love to have in their safeties. Jonathan Abram is just one example of it. They ask their safeties to work into a pseudo-linebacker role, and in the two-high shells, so his versatility fits well.

Could Ford stay at home once again with the Steelers?

Two other intriguing fits are the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. Like it or not, Ford is made for AFC North football. He knows the culture since he works in the facility right next to the Steelers. Furthermore, both of these teams have pattern matching complex schemes that they employ. Both like to mix it up between man coverage and zone, and Ford can fit into that.

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His brand of physical football is welcome to these AFC North teams as well. These teams implementations in their scheme that can allow Ford to ad-lib over the middle of the field. That is a role he has been effective at with the Panthers.

As far as teams that could use him, the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Washington Football Team, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Atlanta Falcons are all teams that make a world of sense. These are teams that will likely be interested in Ford throughout the process.

Want more 2021 NFL Draft prospect news? Want to do your own mock draft?

Dive into PFN’s Free NFL Mock Draft Simulator and test your own drafting acumen. Continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter (@PFN365) to stay in the loop on all things college football and the NFL Draft landscape.

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