The buzz around the Atlanta Falcons the last few days has been about their apparent interest in South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. But don't discount their feelings about another SEC pass-rusher.
Auburn's Dee Ford visited the Falcons this week, and the sharply dressed draft prospect made quite an impression. But that's no surprise to Auburn coach Gus Malhzahn, who fully expects Ford to make an impact in the NFL.
"Dee Ford is a difference-maker," Malzahn said in a phone interview Friday. "The pass-rushing ability and the playmaking ability he provided us was really unbelievable. He rushes the passer. He's a tough guy. He's a hard worker -- just all of the above."
Ford had 10.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss at Auburn last season. He is second in SEC in sacks per game (0.9) .
While fans are lobbying for the Falcons to trade up for Clowney, the possibility of Ford falling to the Falcons in the second round would not be such a bad consolation prize. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s last mock draft had the Falcons selecting Ford with the 37th overall pick in the second round after selecting Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan with the sixth pick in the first round.
The Falcons saw Ford at the Senior Bowl so they know what type of havoc he's capable of creating. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and Ford seemed to hit it off as they chatted during Ford's visit. And remember, Ford was bold enough to declare himself a better pass-rusher than Clowney.
ESPN took a closer look at Ford in this video here.
The 6-2, 240-pound Ford played defensive end at Auburn but seems capable of rushing the passer in an alignment, whether it be 3-4 or 4-3. Falcons coach Mike Smith said he wants his defense to have multiplicity.
Malzahn was asked whether Ford could fit it any scheme.
"I think so," the coach said. "He's a football player. He's a football player who is a great competitor and has a nose for the football."