Virginia Tech WR Isaiah Ford and the Art of Body Control
Complete receivers are very difficult to find and, in this year’s draft class, there is perhaps only one player who could be described as such in the form of Western Michigan’s Corey Davis.
Davis is the most well-rounded wideout in the draft, though many consider Mike Williams of Clemson to be the top pass-catcher available.
Like most of the receivers in the class, Williams excels in one area in particular rather than in every facet of his game. His size allows him to physically dominate defenders and make contested catches on a consistent basis.
Virginia Tech’s Isaiah Ford shares this knack for winning the fight for contested balls but, rather than relying on physicality and catch radius, Ford is a reliable target because of his body control, which also enables him to haul in inaccurate passes, often in spectacular fashion.
Unlike Williams, Ford is not receiving first-round hype but, though there are a number of improvements he needs to make to succeed in the pros, his primary asset in adjusting to the football should see him receive plenty of support in draft rooms around the NFL.
At 6’1″ and 190 pounds, Ford certainly has the height and the frame to compete for the football, and he uses every inch of his frame to adjust to inaccurate throws that would be beyond the reach of receivers not blessed with his athletic gifts.
Ford is an excellent ball tracker and has an impressive understanding of when to maneuver his body to put himself in the best position to make the catch, particularly on back shoulder throws like this one against Pitt.
Here he spins away from the cornerback and twists his body to haul in a fine catch on the sideline.
He repeats the feat later in the same game on an almost identical play, this time laying out for the football and making a diving grab.
Ford’s ability in adjusting to the football is accentuated by the other skills he has at his disposal.
While not the quickest receiver in the class, Ford’s speed and size present significant problems for opposing teams and he is fast enough to get in behind defenses, as Boston College found out in the Hokies’ Week 3 rout of the Eagles.
Though the ball is underthrown, Ford has enough of a step on the cornerback to be able to slow down and bring the ball in for a big gain.
Jerod Evans’ tendency to underthrow deep balls meant they were something Ford had to deal with on a consistent basis last season. However, for a receiver who shows great determination to fight his way back to the football, that was not a substantial problem.
On this play in the Pitt game, Ford again shows off his ability to track the ball in the air and shifts down through the gears, allowing him to react to another Evans underthrow before the covering defender can make a play on it.
Ford’s speed and his proclivity for fighting his way back to underthrown passes led to two of his most spectacular touchdown catches in his final college season, as he produced two brilliant yet very different examples of the art of body control.
This touchdown catch against Pitt proved to be the winner, and it came as Ford combined his ability to work back to underthrown balls and proficiency for back shoulder catches in stunning fashion, pulling in a juggling, one-handed diving reception with a defender draped over him.
That effort was perhaps only outdone by this score against Boston College.
Evans throws the ball into double coverage but it matters not as Ford successfully high-points it, hanging in there and demonstrating the body control to come down with a foot in bounds.
For all the eye-catching receptions Ford made in his time at Virginia Tech, he had some surprising struggles with drops.
On first glance on this play versus Pitt it looks as if Ford has cleverly caught the ball while falling out of bounds. However, he inexplicably allows the ball to slip out and hit the ground at the last moment.
A more egregious drop was punished by an interception versus Boston College.
Evans’ pass comes in with a lot of velocity but it still hits Ford in the hands and is a ball he should catch. Instead it goes through his hands and ends up in the arms of a defender, who is able to rip off a nice return.
There are other weaknesses that may mean we will not hear Ford’s name called until the second or third round of the draft.
He needs to be more physical against press coverage to allow him to get a release off the line more consistently and, as alluded to earlier, he is not so fast that he creates deep separation on a regular basis.
But there remains enough speed there for him to be a downfield threat in the NFL. Ford has shown himself to be an exponent of the art of body control and, with his size, he has all the potential to be a day-two steal who can make a significant impact at the next level.