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Jerome Ford

Cleveland back poised for No. 2 role

Story out that the Browns won't be re-signing Kareem Hunt (it doesn't appear anyone is interested at the moment). And they already let D'Ernest Johnson go in free agency. So Jerome Ford needs to be on the list of late-round running backs, in case Nick Chubb breaks down.

Chubb didn't miss a game last year, so Hunt put up modest numbers as a change-of-pace: 40 total yards per game. But as a fill-in starter in five games the previous two years, he put up 93, 57, 102, 73 and 78 total yards, with 2 TDs. That's the opportunity that could await Ford, should Chubb miss time.

Physically, Ford is similar to Chubb at 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds. But he was just a fifth-round pick, so he wasn't viewed as favorably coming out of college. He barely played on offense as a rookie (8 carries, 12 yards), limited primarily to special teams (he also spent time on IR with an ankle injury).

About all we have to go on with Ford is last preseason, and that looked promising. In his first game he carried 10 times for 57 yards, while also catching 4 passes and scoring twice. The next game he ran for 31 yards and caught 4 more passes for 26. The team had apparently seen enough; in the final preseason game he returned a kick but didn't play on offense.

Just preseason stats, but Ford's final average of 4.6 yards per attempt ranked 8th among runners who had at least 15 attempts last August.

PRESEASON RUSHING, 2022
PlayerTeamAttYdsAvgTD
Justin JacksonDET181096.10
DeeJay DallasSEA281635.81
Antonio WilliamsNYG16935.81
Craig ReynoldsDET16815.10
Jordan MasonSF19945.00
Raheem BlackshearBUF241164.82
Jason HuntleyPHI351634.72
Jerome FordCLE19884.61
Joshua KelleyLAC16744.60
Austin WalterLV231044.51
Darwin ThompsonSEA16724.51
Brittain BrownLV341524.52
Devine OzigboNO/DEN281254.50
Marlon MackHOU21904.30
Qadree OllisonATL18774.31
Malik DavisDAL311324.31
Isiah PachecoKC16664.10
Julius ChestnutTEN261064.11
Bryce PerkinsLA18734.12
Darrynton EvansCHI19774.11
Duke JohnsonBUF21844.02
Tyler AllgeierATL17684.01
Patrick TaylorGB18713.90
Jaret PattersonWAS16633.91
Aaron ShampklinDAL281063.80
Ke'Shawn VaughnTB291093.82
Tyler GoodsonGB291073.71
Rico DowdleDAL22803.61
Caleb HuntleyATL381383.61
Tony JonesNO19693.60
Keaontay IngramARI27973.61
Trey RagasLA21753.61
Jashaun CorbinNYG21733.52
Zamir WhiteLV26903.51
Phillip LindsayIND16553.41
Kennedy BrooksPHI22753.40
De'Montre TuggleCHI21713.40
Mekhi SargentJAX16533.30
Jermar JeffersonDET22723.30
Bryant KobackMIN21673.21
John KellyCLE371173.21
Rachaad WhiteTB19603.20
Abram SmithNO29903.10
Tyrion Davis-PriceSF24743.10
Travis EtienneJAX17523.10
Jaylen WarrenPIT16483.00
Trayveon WilliamsCIN22642.91
Tyler BadieBAL23652.80
Royce FreemanHOU27752.80
Hassan HaskinsTEN27692.60
Jake FunkLA19482.50
John LovettCAR23572.50
Snoop ConnerJAX29652.20
Trey SermonSF19392.10
Chris EvansCIN18100.60

Ford's final year of college (at Cincinnati) was also impressive. He rushed for 1,319 yards (18th) and 19 touchdowns (7th). He also caught 21 passes for 220 yards and a score. Chubb has 63 catches across 43 games the last three seasons, so Ford could possibly emerge as the main option in passing situations, as was the case with Hunt (95 receptions those same three years).

I'm not going to beat the drum too heavily for Ford, but he's the guy to roster if you select Chubb early in a best-ball draft. Or even if you don't.

As for Hunt, there doesn't seem to be a market for him right now. He averaged just 3.8 yards per attempt last year, more than a yard below his previous season (4.9) and also below Chubb (5.0) last year in the same offense. He turns 28 in August. Presumably he'll sign somewhere eventually, but arguably the chances of Ford making an impact this season are just as high.

--Andy Richardson

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