Cody Ford’s first impression of the Buffalo Bills before the NFL Draft was a great one, and the feeling was mutual.
The University of Oklahoma tackle said his meetings with Bills offensive line coach Bobby Johnson made him hope Buffalo would be his NFL destination, a feeling he expressed to a reporter in Norman, Okla., last week.
“I told him I really want to go to Buffalo,” Ford said of the reporter. “He said nobody wants to go to Buffalo. I was like, me and the O-line coach really hit it off.”
“We had multiple meetings between the combine and pro day,” Ford said. “It was just great interaction with him, and I could just see this program was headed in the right direction.”
The Bills liked Ford enough to trade up two spots in the second round to get him at pick No. 38. Ford becomes the favorite to start at right tackle as a rookie.“For Buffalo, allowing me to start off at right tackle, giving me a chance to prove myself and prove my athleticism and everything I can do at the tackle position is a great honor,” Ford said Saturday at One Bills Drive. “And then if need be, if they need me inside, then I’ll move inside because I’m here to win football games.”
Oklahoma offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh had a good feeling about the Bills and Ford, too.
“Cody went to the best place he could go,” Bedenbaugh told The News. “I think coach Johnson does a great job. And he’s going to really develop this kid. He’s going to be a big-time guy for Buffalo. I’m really fired up for him.”
“Coach Johnson came down here for a couple days, came to our pro day and worked those guys out, spent time with him,” Bedenbaugh said. “And I really feel good about him. He’s had success everywhere. You have to go somewhere that a guy really wants you. And coach Johnson wants him. They traded up to get Cody. I think he’ll be the best rookie offensive lineman this year.”
There’s little argument about Ford’s most impressive trait. The 6-foot-3 3-4, 329-pounder plays physical.
I had the opportunity to watch him during one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl,” said former Jacksonville Pro Bowl tackle Leon Searcy. “He’s mean, nasty with an aggressive temperament.”
“Every single time you turn on the film and watch him, he’s dirt bagging somebody,” said former Giants Pro Bowler Sean O’Hara on the NFL Network. “He is putting them in the dirt.”
“That’s how we want them to play here,” Bedenbaugh said. “It’s not just that. He plays hard. Watch his tape. That’s all you have to do. Watch how he gets downfield and blocks, watch how he keeps people away from the quarterback and moves people at the line of scrimmage. It’s easy to see.”
“I just want to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played, which is physical and nasty,” Ford said. “You go to Oklahoma and there’s a standard you have to uphold. All I was trying to do was uphold that standard. You can’t play for coach Bedenbaugh if you don’t play like that.”
Bedenbaugh is one of the most respected offensive line coaches in college football. Ford said he got the same kind of feeling from Johnson as he had from his college coach.
“His coaching style kind of resembles the coaching style I’ve been used to,” Ford said of Johnson. “What he expects from his players is kind of what I bring to the table … Back home coach Bedenbaugh expects every player to bring their best effort, always fight for everything and make sure everything you get is earned and not given. That was the biggest thing I saw in coach Johnson.”
Ford switched from guard to tackle for his junior year. There is debate in the scouting community about where Ford fits best. Not surprisingly, Bedenbaugh thinks he can handle tackle. Ford allowed just seven pressures in 2018, according to Pro Football Focus.
“The guy moved to tackle and played 14 games at tackle, not many people can do that at his size,” Bedenbaugh said. “We had to move him to tackle, and he was unbelievable. He gave up how many pressures this year? And one sack … Now I’ve never coached in the NFL. But I would start him at tackle. I think he’s an all-pro guard, and he can play tackle.”
Oklahoma won the Joe Moore Award, given to the team with the No. 1 offensive line in the nation. The Sooners’ line blocked for the last two Heisman Trophy winners (quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray). Ford was one of four Sooners linemen taken this weekend, joining tackle Bobby Evans (taken in the third round) and guards Ben Powers and Dru Samia (both fourth rounders).
“We definitely did something special,” Ford said. “The group we had last season was so amazing … Coach Bedenbaugh, he invested so much time in us and so much belief in us, we owe it to him. We had to do the work, but we had to follow the guide, and he gave us that guide.”