Isaiah Ford has led the Virginia Tech Hokies in receptions and receiving yards in each of his first three seasons. Next up is a date with the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Belk Bowl on December 29th.
Now draft-eligible, where does Ford fit into the 2017 class of wide receivers?
As an 18-year old freshman in 2014, Isaiah Ford posted a 56/709/6 statline against Power-5 competition playing in the ACC. He went on to eclipse 75 catches and 1,000 yards receiving in 2015 and 2016, with the bowl game against Arkansas still to go.
Ford scored 11 touchdowns in 2015, catching passes from a quarterback combination of Michael Brewer and Brenden Motley, both of whom failed to complete 60 percent of their throws for the season. Ford also commanded 34 percent of the Hokies’ catches, 40 percent of the receiving yards, and 46 percent of the receiving touchdowns.
Draft analyst Mel Kiper has Ford as the sixth ranked WR prospect in the 2017 class, behind only Mike Williams, John Ross, Corey Davis, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Curtis Samuel. At 6 foot 2, 195 pounds, Ford has decent size and has received praise for his vertical ability and downfield concentration. And as one of the younger WR prospects in this class (20.9 years old), Ford’s potential ceiling could really intrigue NFL front offices should he decide to declare for the 2017 draft.
While it can be a very unreliable practice to draw comparisons between players preparing to enter the NFL and those already there, Ford has drawn comparisons to Houston Texans’ WR Will Fuller, who during his time at Notre Dame was a productive player with big-play ability whose draft stock spiked after running the second-fastest 40-yard dash of any participant at the 2016 Combine.
Although Fuller was a better TD producer over their respective three collegiate seasons, Ford was more productive in terms of catches and yards:
Fuller’s explosive downfield ability and massive TD total in his final two seasons (29) in South Bend put him over the top in those categories. And we have yet to learn just how athletic Ford is. We need more information before we can make any determinations here.
Comparisons aside, Ford has been a major contributor in the Hokies’ offense each season, including his freshman campaign, displaying impressive consistency.
For the sake of objective analysis, it’s important to point out that Isaiah Ford’s 2016 campaign has likely fallen short of expectations. His market share metrics do show a downward trajectory:
A few factors play into this equation including the installation of new head coach Justin Fuente’s offensive system and the emergence of Bucky Hodges and Cam Phillips. But the fact remains, Ford was counted on for a smaller share of Virginia Tech’s offense in a year where QB Jerod Evans passed for over 3,000 yards, the first Hokies’ QB to surpass that mark since Logan Thomas in 2011.
Isaiah Ford failed to produce a continuous increase in market share of his three seasons at Virginia Tech, but over the course of his career has achieved the threshold identified by Kevin Cole as the most important in predicting future success. His TD production has also slumped in 2016, but he’s young, has requisite size and positive early evaluations.
A favorable showing against Arkansas and strong workout metrics — should he declare — should push Ford into the top-100 picks of the 2017 Draft, and firmly onto the dynasty landscape.