Dee Ford backs up combine statements with strong pro day

Former Auburn defensive end Dee Ford turned in unofficial 40-yard dash times of 4.53 and 4.59 at the school's pro day event Tuesday morning, according to Auburn's official Twitter feed. Ford also bench-pressed 225 pounds 29 times, which would have ranked him 10th among the defensive linemen at the NFL Scouting Combine, and broad jumped 10 feet, 4 inches, which would have ranked tied for second.

Prior to being medically disqualified from performing at the combine, Ford called himself the best pass rusher available in the draft and mocked the notion that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's impressive physical measurements made Clowney the conclusive choice for that distinction. If Ford's official 40 time matches his second unofficial 40 of 4.53, he'll have matched Clowney's official 40-yard dash at just 14 pounds lighter than the 266-pound Clowney.

It was the sort of validation Ford needed to not only establish himself as one of the draft's elite athletes, but as well to quell any concerns about the back surgery he underwent in 2011, which prompted his absence from combine workouts. At 252 pounds, he is considered light to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, but could be ideal as a pass-rushing linebacker in a 3-4. Ford said at his combine news conference that teams that showed the most interest in him operated 3-4 defenses.

Ford is regarded as high as a late first- or early second-round choice, and appears to be competing with Missouri's Kony Ealy to be the second defensive end chosen after Clowney, who has been projected as high as the No. 1 overall choice. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah sees both Ealy and Ford as early second-round value, ranking Ealy the No. 33 prospect in the draft in his latest top 50 list, and Ford close behind at No. 38.

NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock said earlier on Tuesday that Ford's pro day performance would be critical in light of the back issue that prevented him from competing in Indianapolis.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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