Pitt could have lost both of its starting safeties after the 2019 season, with Damar Hamlin out of eligibility and Paris Ford a potential 2020 NFL Draft pick despite having just completed his redshirt sophomore season.
Hamlin’s fate for 2020 lied mostly with the NCAA, which he successfully petitioned for a fifth season of eligibility.
Ford, however, made his own decision to spurn the NFL’s advances and return to the Panthers. That decision will be a boon for Pitt, which will now return what could be the best starting safety duo in the country.
It also could help Ford, who is now being talked about as a player that could be taken in the first two rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.
PITT has some dawgs on the roster bro.
All could be Top-50 players
All should be Top-100 players https://t.co/49S30zEUS3
— Matt Valdovinos (@MVScouting) May 1, 2020
Been discussing Safeties today
My Top 5
1) Jevon Holland Oregon
2) Trevon Moehrig TCU
3) Ar’Darius Washington TCU
4) Paris Ford Pittsburgh
5) Richard LeCounte UGA
Tariq Thompson SDSU
— College Football Rankings ™ (@CFBRanking) May 1, 2020
Ford (6-foot, 190 pounds) showed his impact potential in 2019, leading Pitt with three interceptions and forcing two fumbles while also leading the Panthers in overall tackles with 97.
In addition to his splash plays, he showed a willingness to be a heavy hitter that belies his size and quickness.
First 2021 draft take:
Pittsburgh DB Paris Ford packs a major punch from the backend. Plays reckless at times, but the dude can lay the BOOM like no one’s business.
Some examples vs. Virginia Tech: pic.twitter.com/q3u9cuF4Dz
— Carter Donnick (@CDonnick3) May 1, 2020
With another season to progress, Ford could end up as one of the highest drafted Pitt safeties ever.
Pitt’s last first-round defensive back was Darrelle Revis, who was selected No. 14 overall in 2007. Tim Lewis, the only other Pitt defensive back selected in the first round, went No. 11 in 1983. But both of those players, along with 1992 No. 30 Steve Israel, were cornerbacks.
Pitt’s highest-drafted safety was Quintin Jones, who went No. 48 overall to the Houston Oilers in 1988. With Ford projected as a Top 50 player, he could easily challenge that mark.