Chiefs first-round pick Dee Ford will arrive in Kansas City on Friday morning — and he can’t wait.
“I’m looking forward to seeing everyone, and I’m hoping everyone is looking forward to seeing me,” said Ford, a defensive end from Auburn. “We’re going to have some great times, man. I plan on being a Kansas City Chief forever, so no trading me.”
Ford’s enthusiasm was readily apparent during a conference call Thursday night after he was selected No. 23 overall by the Chiefs during the first round of the NFL Draft.
He was giddy talking about the phone call he received from Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
“I’m trying to not to be a fan of his,” said Ford, who watched the opening day of the draft with his family in Anniston, Ala. “He’s my head coach right now, but — good Lord — it’s Andy Reid. I was stunned, a man of character right there.”
He also was effusive in talking about the Chiefs’ fan base.
“I hear you all have the best fans,” Ford said. “I don’t know for sure, but I hear you all have the best fans in football. So, I’m definitely looking forward to that. I’m really humbled by this situation.”
Of course, Ford might have been most excited when he was asked about the prospect of replacing Pro Bowl outside linebacker Tamba Hali as a rush specialist in the Chiefs’ 3-4 scheme.
It wasn’t because Ford is eager to displace Hali, though.
“I love edge rushers,” Ford said. “I’m a big fan of Tamba Hali. I’m definitely a big fan of his.”
Instead, Ford is most eager to learn from Hali.
“I’m going to humble myself, learn from these vets and, man, we’re going to do some things,” Ford said. “I can’t measure what I’m going to do from what (Hali) did. He’s a dynamic pass-rusher. He’s so beyond me. I need to learn. That’s my No. 1 goal, be a teammate and learn.”
Asked what he needs to work on the most, Ford replied, “Everything. I’m not perfect in my pass rush or my run game. But let’s be honest, I played in the SEC and I was a starter for two years. You have to stop the run, and I was a starter. I was not a liability to my defense. I think sometimes, when your specialty is pass rush, the natural thing to do is question their ability to stop the run, because we’re getting off the ball.”
However, Ford — and Reid and general manager John Dorsey — shrugged off any concerns about his ability to handle the run-defense or pass-coverage demands of the outside-linebacker spot in the Chiefs’ system.
Ford said he spoke briefly with the Chiefs at the NFL Combine, but he hadn’t had contact beyond that and was surprised when Reid, Dorsey and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton called.
He wasn’t surprised to go in the first round, though.
“I had a great Senior Bowl, I had a great Pro Day, and things just worked out for me,” Ford said. “But I was confident I was going to be taken in the first round.”
Ford led Auburn, which won the SEC and reached the BCS National Championship Game, with 10 1/2 sacks and 14 1/2 tackles for a loss last season. He recorded 29 total tackles.
As a junior, Ford recorded six sacks and 34 tackles in 11 games after shaking off the injury bug early in his career.
Ford was limited to three games in 2011 with a back injury that required surgery and also suffered a left knee injury during the 2013 preseason.
Outside linebacker Dee Ford
Round one (23rd overall)
Finished with 10 1/2 sacks and 14 1/2 tackles for a loss as a defensive end for the national runner-up, Auburn. Ford also racked up 29 total tackles and an interception.
Ford won’t be able to drop into coverage without getting exposed — at least not without extensive coaching — and probably isn’t going to be great against the run, but he can get after the quarterback. He’s athletic, but he occasionally struggles to shed blocks and has a history of injuries.
Ford was a star at the Senior Bowl and also made waves when he declared that he is as good of a pass-rusher as South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, who was the No. 1 overall pick by the Houston Texans. In fairness, Ford’s stats and measurable — 40-yard dash time, bench press, vertical and broad jump — are comparable to Clowney’s.
WHERE HE FITS IN: Ford is a workmanlike edge rusher who played defensive end for Auburn. He’s a high-motor player with a great speed rush off the edge. Ford is the ready-made successor for Tamba Hali if his cap number becomes prohibitive looking toward 2015. He also provides some much-needed depth for Hali and fellow outside linebacker Justin Houston.