Auburn's Dee Ford rated as top South DL in Senior Bowl

NFL Media analyst Charles Davis wrote Thursday that Auburn's Dee Ford was worthy of the buzz he generated with his performance at the Reese's Senior Bowl, and Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage agrees with him.

Ford helped himself more than any other player at the game, according to Savage, who picked Ford as the South squad's top defensive lineman and projected the pass rusher as an NFL starter within the first two years of his NFL career.

Ford won six of seven matchups in 1-on-1 pass rush drills, and ranked ahead of South defensive linemen Chris Smith and Daniel McCullers.

"He has excellent first-step quickness and the bend to take the corner when rushing the passer," Savage said. "Although undersized when defending direct runs, he is aggressive and will chase with effort when the football goes away from him."

Ford (6-foot-2, 243 pounds) made two sacks in the Senior Bowl but is undersized to play defensive end in the NFL. He practiced with the defensive linemen at the Senior Bowl, but he's expected to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme at the next level, where his pass-rushing skills can keep him on the edge of the pocket.

"The 3-4 teams will want to work him out endlessly this spring in advance of the May draft," Savage said.

Savage picked two more SEC players as the South's second- and third-rated defensive linemen in Smith and McCullers. Savage projected Smith as a "rotational contributor" in his rookie NFL season, while describing the monstrous McCullers (6-7, 348 pounds) as "developmental."

"He has some rare features, but will have to convince people that he is more than a run-down player only," Savage said of McCullers.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter *@ChaseGoodbread*.

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