Up next, a guard with a bumpy start to his career.
One of the challenges with building our top-ten list of the youngest Buffalo Bills players is how we deal with injured players. Were they dealing with a one-off ailment or a chronic history of injuries? Was their injury the type that has a clean recovery, or one that can linger for years? And, of course, how can we rate the player’s quality when they aren’t playing on the field?
The next player on our list could’ve ranked higher if he’d been able to see the field for all of last year. Instead, it’s not even a guarantee that he’ll be a starter in 2021.
Number 8: OG Cody Ford (turns 25 on December 28)
There’s the ideal trajectory for an NFL player, then there’s the bumpy road of ups and downs faced by Ford in his first two seasons in the league. The Bills made it clear that they wanted Ford, a collegiate tackle, to play right tackle as a pro. As a rookie, though, he started at right guard in the preseason. After the season began he played in an unorthodox intra-game rotation with Ty Nsekhe at right tackle. Both players would essentially play for a couple of drives, then come off the field so the other player could tag in for the next 20 plays. Given that most offensive linemen value continuity, it was probably a challenge for Ford to go in and out of games on the regular.
2020 brought more of a shake-up, when free-agent signing Daryl Williams seized the right tackle role in the preseason. Ford began the year at right guard while Jon Feliciano was injured. The team benched, and later released, left guard Quinton Spain, and moved Ford to his position in Week 3. Ford started four games at left guard before a groin injury caused him to miss three of his next four games.
Finally, he tore his meniscus during a team practice, which ended his season and any momentum he was starting to build. After offseason surgery, Ford returned to action in 2021 OTAs, albeit in a red no-contact jersey.
A 6’4” 329-lb player who was a mauling lineman on one of college football’s best offensive lines, Ford was expected to grow into a powerful guard or tackle with some pass protection limitations. To this point, his pass protection weaknesses are there, while the dominant reps are still inconsistent. Some of this can be chalked up to learning three different positions in his first two years in the NFL. Switching back and forth between guard and tackle, and between the left and right side of the line, are dramatic changes. And even when Ford’s position seemed to settle at left guard, two injuries disrupted his technical progression.
Rather than a cornerstone of the Bills’ line, Ford enters year three in a training camp battle with former UDFA Ike Boettger for a starting job. It’s not where we wanted to see Ford’s career go, but it’s still too soon to call him a bust, either. At any rate, the lack of results and playing time are what pushed the former second rounder down this list, despite his pre-draft talent.