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Isaiah Ford and the benefits of ball skills

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Eagles need someone who can catch the damn football.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Before Isaiah Ford, not a single wide receiver in Virginia Tech history eclipsed one thousand receiving yards in a season.

Isaiah Ford did it twice.

The 6-2, 190 pound pass catcher was an impact player from day one, but really came on in his last two seasons for the Hokies; catching over 150 passes, 2200 yards and 18 touchdowns. So Ford is not only a playmaker, but a historically good one for the Hokies. It's no mystery how Ford had a 1,000 yard season with two different quarterbacks, because what quarterback wouldn't love a guy who does this?

This play really sums up who Isaiah Ford was in Virginia Tech. Quarterbacks knew he could go up and get the ball, so he received a lot of low percentage passes. Luckily, he's really good with them... 

Everything with Ford is incredibly smooth when he is in the air. He seamlessly transitions from runner to pass catcher and his eyes and hands work in congress to find the football. His body control allows him to make these tough timing plays and sideline catches as well. He did this to Pitt way too many times.

Of all the receivers in this class, Ford has some of the most consistent focus and his ball skills are among the best.

While you want to see a receiver high point a pass like this instead of waiting to let it fall into the basket, Ford's timing on these contested passes is incredibly impressive. You will notice that Ford does not get a lot of separation on these routes and while he does not have great long speed, a lot of it comes down to Virginia Tech trying to force these timed pitch and catch situations that Ford does so well. In terms of separation, even on vertical routes, Ford has shown he has the route running ability to compensate for his lack of long speed.

Ford is such an effortless, polished athlete. While he may not be a dynamic speed demon, everything about his movement looks effortless. Both of these passes would have been long gains if not for really poor throws or interferences, but they exhibit how Ford can get open on the outside. While Ford was primarily used as a vertical receiver on the perimeter, he has the physicality, dependability and toughness to work in the slot as well.

Not a difficult route by any means as Ford just runs up the seam, but grabbing that pass in traffic like it ain't no thing is something a lot of teams would gladly take on their offense. Ford also was used quite a bit on screen passes, especially during his sophomore campaign, and he showed he has the burst and vision to create big plays after the catch.

Virginia Tech took advantage of a full house blitz here, but it is encouraging to see that initial acceleration from Ford. Once again, he is not a burner, but he is certainly not slow.

Virginia Tech's usage of him as their contested catch guy yielded a lot of spectacular results, but a high volume of those catches means that Ford dropped a few, mostly due to losing the battle with the cornerback. This is bound to happen considering the "workload" he saw as a wide receiver used in these low percentage situations (there is a reason they are called low percentage), but it is worth noting. Ford is not the best athlete, but he is still incredibly young. Ford turned 21 a bit over a week ago and the level of college productivity he experienced at such a young age (19-20) is a historically good indicator of NFL success.

NFL Comparison: Isaiah Ford's polished game and outstanding ball skills are similar to Michael Thomas coming out of Ohio State last season. Thomas was not the fastest in a straight line, but he could win at the catch point, was a good route runner and could make plays after the catch. Thomas' pro-ready game translated to a 1,000 yard rookie season with the New Orleans Saints, showing that sometimes banking on savvy over ceiling is the right way to go.

Ford's versatility fits in any NFL offense. His great hands, physicality and ability to run after the catch makes him a great candidate to be a high end slot receiver, but he could absolutely play on the outside as well. It would benefit the teams and Ford to move him around and let quarterbacks take advantage of his ball skills. Any team gets better by sticking Ford in their starting lineup and that is something not a lot of prospects can say. Ford is probably going to be there in the second round of the draft possibly due to lack of pure speed and being a bit skinnier. However, Ford immediately becomes a great value on the second day of the draft and any team, especially the Eagles, should look to add him.