ORCHARD PARK — Upon being drafted by the Buffalo Bills after the team traded up to get him with the 38th pick in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, there was plenty for rookie OL Chad Ford to be anxious about.
Projected as a first round pick, Ford dropped to the second round on Friday and expressed his disappointment which came as a result of his slide, while he also had other things to worry about as well, including what position he is going to play for the Bills. Upon his selection Ford was announced as an offensive tackle, but spent time playing guard in college and it remains up in the air where Ford will line up for Buffalo in 2019.
With all that being said, what struck Ford the most over the weekend was in fact unrelated to the draft process.
“When I was taking my tour of the facilities, I was in the locker room. I looked to my right and there was Frank Gore’s locker. I was like, ‘That’s crazy.’,” said Ford during his Friday press conference from One Bills Drive. “I remember playing on the video games with him, watching him as I was growing up and hearing his name all my life. To be on a team with him is so surreal at this moment.”
Ford will join 13 other offensive lineman on the Bills roster in clearing the way for Gore, who will help lead a deep running back room after the team picked up three new ball carriers during this offseason. A competition for playing time is certainly expected to play out amongst the team’s stable of running backs, while a battle for playing time along the Bills offensive front is expected to take place as well. Considering the number of offensive lineman which the team has brought in, Ford is looking forward to battling it out for a starting spot and actually takes solace in the fact that he is a part of such a big room with so many new faces.
“We actually just talked about that, (the team) bringing in a lot of (lineman),” said Ford. “One thing (offensive line coach Bobby Johnson) mentioned is that I wouldn’t just be the odd ball since some of them are new and then some of them are still here. He was like, ‘You’re coming into a great situation being that you won’t just stand out amongst the crowd.’”
Another positive by-product of entering the league with a team which possesses so many new faces up front, says Ford, is that he and his teammates will be able to grow and mesh together while building the chemistry an O-line unit needs to be successful.
“I actually thought about that yesterday,” said Ford on Friday. “I was like, “This is a good situation.” Being able to come in with guys who are fresh in the system just like me will put us at a great opportunity to learn together and build together. (At Oklahoma) most of us had been together for three or four years and the chemistry builds up over time. (At Oklahoma) we became buds over time and made sure everyone stayed loyal. (Those factors) made it easier for us on the field.”
Oklahoma’s 2018 offensive line won the Joe Moore Award, which is awarded annually to the best collegiate football offensive line unit, and Ford says that unit’s success can be directly linked to the chemistry which they built while coming up through the ranks together a group – which is the same opportunity which the Bills’ O-line have in front of them moving forward. He also attributes the success which last year’s unit experienced to the work they put in with the Sooners coaching staff, primarily offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh.
“We definitely did something special. The group that we had there last season was so amazing,” said Ford. “Dru (Samia), Ben (Powers), Bobby (Evans), and myself – we all just got drafted. It’s all thanks to our O-line coach and our head coach, Coach (Lincoln) Riley, Coach (Bill) Bedenbaugh and even Coach (Bob) Stoops for bringing us in in the first place. Without them, we’re not here where we are today. We have so much to be thankful for when it comes to them and (helping) our careers, especially Coach Bedenbaugh. He invested so much time in us and so much belief in us that we owe it to him. We had to do the work, but we had to follow a guide and he gave us that guide.”
Upon meeting with Bills representatives leading up to the draft, Ford had great interactions with Bills offensive line coach Bobby Johnson, whose coaching style, Ford says, resembles that of what he experienced in college.
“I know back home, (Coach Bedenbaugh) really expects every player to bring their best effort,” said Ford. “Always fight for everything and make sure that everything you get is earned and not given, and that was the biggest things I saw in coach (Bobby) Johnson. What he expects from his players is kind of what I bring to the table.”
Coach Johnson was one of the main reasons why Ford said, during the pre-draft process, he actually told reporters that he wanted to go to Buffalo.
“One of the local reporters came up to me and he was asking me about the process and things. He asked which team I thought would be the best fit and where I wanted to play. I told him, I was like, ‘I really want to go to Buffalo.’”, said Ford. “And he was like, ‘Nobody wants to go to Buffalo.’ And I (told him) I was just feeling it right now. Me and (Coach Bobby Johnson) really hit it off. We had multiple meetings between the combine and pro day. It was just a great interaction with him. I could just see that this program is headed in the right direction.”
In addition to his connection with Coach Johnson, Ford says it was the vibe he got from visiting the Bills organization last month during the pre-draft process which set Buffalo apart from all other teams.
“Just the family atmosphere here is kind of what really made me be like ‘I want to go to Buffalo.’,” said Ford.
Ford also mentioned the fact that, upon being drafted, finding out the Bills actually made an effort to trade up into the first round to take him made the eventuality of being drafted by the Bills in the second round extra special. He added that it gives him great confidence moving forward.
“It shows me how much faith they have in me and how much belief they have in me,” said Ford. “To almost make that jump and go back into the first round and come get me (shows a lot).”
After dismissing the idea of trading up into the first round late Thursday night, the Bills entered the second round on Friday with their first pick scheduled at No. 40. The team quickly made a move up to draft the Oklahoma offensive lineman at No. 38 where the Oakland Raiders were originally slated to pick.
Buffalo’s trade with Oakland included the 40th overall pick in addition to a fifth round selection, in exchange for the 38th overall selection. The fifth round pick which the Bills traded away was the same pick which they received from the Raiders last season in the AJ McCarron trade.
Ford started 14 games for the Sooners last season, and was honored as a First-Team All-Big 12 selected. He is the seventh new offensive lineman added to the Bills roster this offseason.
“For me it’s all about proving myself and proving to people what I can do,” said Ford on what his expectations are for this year. “For Buffalo (to allow) me to start out at right tackle, giving me a chance to prove myself and prove my athleticism and everything I can prove at the tackle position to everybody else is a great honor. And then if need be, if they need me inside then I’ll move inside, because I’m here to win football games.”