Top 2021 draft prospect for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back Paris Ford (12) Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back Paris Ford (12) Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers are busy winning games. But it is never too soon to look towards preparing for the roster in the next season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been playing great ball. There are a few good options for them to pursue. My first favorite option for Pittsburgh to look at is a kid from Pitt. His name is Paris Ford.

I’m sure a few of you already know who Ford is. His breakout 2019 season saw him defend 11 passes while hauling in 3 interceptions. He is entering his junior season in college football and he will definitely be considering entering the 2021 draft at this rate. He is playing at a rate that should see him being the first day one draft pick Pitt has produced since Aaron Donald. He is a little different than the Steelers current SS Terrell Edmunds in a few ways. First off, He is a bit smaller, currently listed at 6’0 and 190 pounds. However, he doesn’t play like it.

He is incredibly fast, and while he takes more chances than Edmunds they generally pay off. He is one of the hardest hitting safeties in college football, and he has so much range that putting him in zone is going to be a problem for NFL offenses. The fact that he has tallied, 5 interceptions, and 13 passes defended since the start of 2019 has shown that he can do it all. He has recorded 124 total tackles and this has all been done in his last 17 games, again, going back to the start of 2019.

I do enjoy Edmunds’ amazing ability to tackle, and more importantly, end plays by not missing tackles. However, Ford can bring a different element to this position. He is currently graded as a late 1st round, early 2nd round prospect. I don’t know if this is likely to change by much at the end of the season, truly because of the amount of talent at the safety position in this upcoming draft class.

What keeps Ford as around the 3rd ranked safety on a lot of draft boards is the lack of tape on him in man coverage. Pitt has him playing zone at such a high rate the biggest question mark on Ford is his ability to cover someone man-man. I do think Ford has the athleticism to make up for his lack of size while covering tight ends, but the likely growing pains should help keep him out of the first 20 picks selected. That leaves the Steelers in prime position to snag him up. He may require some development in that area, but the worst-case scenario for Pittsburgh if they draft Ford is that they may have a safety who excels in absolutely every facet of the game but man coverage.

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If that is really the case, we know Minkah Fitzpatrick can play man to man and it is a weakness that the Pittsburgh Steelers can cover up seamlessly. Pittsburgh could just as easily let Ford roam around freely in some packages while doing so. The results would be outlandish.