Isaiah Ford – The Free Breakout Option You Need
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Image Credit: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Isaiah Ford.

Isaiah Ford caught seven of nine targets for 76 yards in Week 2, and landed on Curtis Patrick’s Dynasty Waiver Wire. Could he also be a redraft savior for owners struggling with an avalanche of injuries at wide receiver? 

As someone stockpiling Ford in deeper dynasty leagues, I was glad to see Ford land on Curtis’ list of fantasy targets. He points to a variety of encouraging trends, including three games with nine targets in his last six appearances and a 74% snap share that trails only Preston Wilson among Dolphins receivers. Ford carved out a role in Week 14 last season and carried that over into 2020.

Miami entered the season with three clear fantasy options. Devante Parker was coming off of the rare fifth-year breakout by a former first-round pick. Williams had been even better before missing the second half of the year with an injury. In Williams’ absence, Mike Gesicki finally made his move, finishing the season with four TE1 performances in the last six weeks. Beyond this trio, the talent was thin and fantasy owners wouldn’t have to worry about their guys hemorrhaging targets.

It hasn’t worked out that way.

Through two weeks, Ford leads the Dolphins receivers in targets. But this is almost certainly a blip. Parker and Williams are working through nagging injuries, and they’ll reassert themselves soon.

It’s not like Ford was overlooked in the 2017 draft and offers starting talent. It can’t be like that.

Ford Has More In Common With Tyler Boyd Than You Might Realize

I’ve been keeping tabs on Ford since he fell to the 237th pick of the 2017 draft. As a collegiate player, he was simply too good to ignore.

Seas Age Rec RecYds RecYPR RecTD RecYdsMS RecTDMS DR
2014 18.9 56 709 12.66 6 0.25 0.32 0.28
2015 19.9 75 1164 15.52 11 0.4 0.46 0.42
2016 20.9 79 1094 13.85 7 0.3 0.24 0.27
Career 210 2967 14.13 24 0.32 0.33 0.32

The freshman year production immediately jumps out, as he accounted for more than 30% of Virginia’s receiving yards. He authored a true breakout as a sophomore, easily cresting the 0.30 Dominator Rating threshold with a number north of 40%. Although his final year numbers slid, he also finished above the 30% career yardage number that foreshadows NFL success.

These results gave him the fourth-best market share numbers in the class. He joined Corey Davis, Cooper Kupp, and Kenny Golladay in the top five, and easily trumped questionable top-10 picks like John Ross and Mike Williams. He also did all of this at a young age and without padding his stats with a senior year, both positive indicators. Ford entered the draft as the third-youngest receiver, trailing only the good company of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chris Godwin.

If Ford was so good, why did he fall in the draft? A lackluster combine didn’t help.

A 4.61 forty at 194 pounds gave Ford a Freak Score of only 36 and underlined scouting criticisms that his game wouldn’t play big or fast enough for the NFL level. But Ford isn’t completely without athleticism. The 127-inch broad and 6.94 three-cone were both above average. They also highlight some of the advantages of his game and give him a closest physical comp of Tyler Boyd – another hyperproductive college player who took a little time to transition.

We can guess at Ford’s Box Score Scout comps as a late-round pick. They’re not great, although Curtis notes that his closest comp, Willie Snead, has been a solid NFL player. But we can also explore what Ford’s history might have been like if a team had believed in him. The BSS lets us enter a hypothetical draft selection, and if we use pick No. 100 on Ford, the comps are closer to what I envisioned before the 2017 draft.

In Keenan Allen and Jarvis Landry, we have a couple more names suggesting the type of player Ford might be in an extreme upside scenario.

Landry and the aforementioned Boyd are largely underneath threats, and that’s how Ford has been used over this most recent six-game stretch.

Player GMs Tgt Rec Yards TD YPR Yd/Tgt Tgt Shr AirYards AY/Tgt
DeVante Parker 6 7.8 4.7 74.7 0.7 16 9.5 19% 106 13.5
Isaiah Ford 6 7 5 54 0 10.8 7.7 17% 54.5 7.8
Preston Williams 2 6 1.5 33.5 0 22.3 5.6 16% 78.5 13.1

Is He Really Worth the Stash?

If Ford was selected as a 2017 seventh-round pick, can there really be any upside if he’s just making noise now? The answer to this question is surprisingly encouraging. Ford spent his rookie year on injured reserve (knee), and because he was young on arrival, he’s still only 24, making him both younger and less experienced than most 2017 picks.

Late-round draft picks also take longer to emerge. Ford is right on schedule for a fifth-year breakout in 2021, a breakout cohort that belongs to players overlooked in the draft.

The list of recent late-round or undrafted players breaking out in Year 5 includes Julian Edelman, Doug Baldwin, and Adam Thielen.

How to Play It

Starting late last season and continuing through this week, I’ve been adding Ford in deeper dynasty leagues whenever a roster spot opens. After a flurry of injuries to WRs, including RotoViz favorites like A.J. Brown and Courtland Sutton, I’ve been adding him in redraft over the last several days. If he posts impressive snap and target numbers again in Week 3, Ford could help desperate owners as soon as next week.

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Shawn Siegele

Author of the original Zero RB article and 2013 NFFC Primetime Grand Champion. 11-time main event league winner. 2015, 2017, 2018 titles in MFL10 of Death.

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