49ers Should Take WR Isaiah Ford in Round 3 of NFL Draft

The San Francisco 49ers have no shortage of needs in the 2017 NFL Draft, and wide receiver is certainly one of them. In Round 3, the Niners shouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on Virginia Tech’s Isaiah Ford.

Niner Noise previously took a look at what the San Francisco 49ers should do to address their quarterbacking needs in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Instead of reaching for a quarterback in Round 1 with the No. 2 overall pick, we had San Francisco grab Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes in the second round with the No. 34 overall pick.

And the Niners used their first pick in the draft to bring in Alabama inside linebacker Reuben Foster.

Let’s assume it’s Round 3 now. And general manager John Lynch still has the second pick in the round, which means there could be plenty of carryover from Round 2-projected prospects.

This is exactly what Virginia Tech wide receiver Isaiah Ford is, at least according to CBS Sports, who projects him as a late second- or early third-round prospect.

Ford, 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, was a major contributor in Virginia Tech’s offense over the last two seasons.

San Francisco could stand to use some of that production.

Currently, the Niners boast only one legitimate threat at the position — Torrey Smith. Fellow receivers like Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington have been inconsistent at best, so addressing this glaring need relatively early in the draft will go a long way.

Sure, Ford’s route-running abilities will need some work. But head coach Kyle Shanahan has already shown a knack for scheming guys to get open. That’s where Ford comes into play.

Breaking Down the Numbers

Ford’s best season came back in 2015 when he posted 1,164 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns over 13 games.

But he nearly matched those totals last year, amassing 79 grabs for 1,094 yards and six touchdowns, putting him on the map as a solid day-two NFL Draft prospect:

Receiving & Rushing Table
Receiving Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2014 Virginia Tech ACC FR WR 13 56 709 12.7 6 60 709 11.8 6
*2015 Virginia Tech ACC SO WR 13 75 1164 15.5 11 82 1215 14.8 11
2016 Virginia Tech ACC JR WR 13 79 1094 13.8 7 85 1127 13.3 7
Career Virginia Tech 210 2967 14.1 24 227 3051 13.4 24
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 2/11/2017.

Virginia Tech’s spread offense likely means Ford will have some adjusting to do when he reaches the pro level. One can deduce his numbers were inflated a bit because of this collegiate approach, but the intangibles are certainly there.

Shanahan’s West Coast-like offense, as outlined in this Washington Post article, could still be a good fit though.

Breaking Down the Scouting Reports

One of the major knocks against Ford is his overall size — not his height but rather his lanky frame.

At 195 pounds, Ford will need to add some bulk in order to compete well enough against bigger-bodied cornerbacks at the pro level.

Still, his natural gifts should be enough to entice scouts with a late Round 2 or early Round 3 selection.

Rob Rang of CBS Sports wrote:

Ford looks the part of a speed merchant with a tight-skinned, athletic frame, including long limbs. He glides off the line of scrimmage, accelerating fluidly to force defenders to respect his ability to go deep and shows very good balance to sink his hips, as well as burst out of his breaks to create separation. Ford shows the initial quickness and lateral agility to avoid defenders in press coverage, occasionally mixing in a hesitation move to get opponents off-balance.

Assuming this scouting report translates over to the NFL, Ford shouldn’t have too much difficulty getting open, especially against teams not utilizing press coverage all too often.

Sep 3, 2016; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies wide receiver Isaiah Ford (1) catches a touchdown pass against Liberty Flames cornerback Chris Turner (39) during the first quarter at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 3, 2016; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies wide receiver Isaiah Ford (1) catches a touchdown pass against Liberty Flames cornerback Chris Turner (39) during the first quarter at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Even when contested, Ford manages to concentrate on getting the ball. Just check out these two plays, courtesy of our friends over at 49ers Hub:

Ford doesn’t need to be wide open to make a grab. Sure, his hands could use a bit of work. But they’re reliable enough to trust him on 50-50 balls.

Three-Round Mock Draft for the 49ers

As noted earlier, and shown in previous prospect pieces, the Niners wind up taking Foster with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

This is, of course, assuming Lynch doesn’t trade down in the first round.

That pickup helps boost a weak San Francisco defense, stiffening the team’s abilities against the run and adding a dynamic playmaker alongside fellow linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

Mahomes is the pick in the early stages of Round 2. While he won’t be a day one starter, Mahomes is the kind of quarterback Shanahan will enjoy grooming to fit his scheme. It should be a wise investment.

But getting Mahomes some weapons is also critical, which is where Ford comes in.

Ford will, of course, have to slip into Round 3. Or San Francisco will have to move up into the later stages of the second round to make this selection.

Still, Ford adds enough dynamic attributes to give Shanahan’s offense a likable piece this season and beyond.

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