Nominees for the awards, run in association with Emirates Airline, also include New Zealand duo Sam Cane and Luke Whitelock, and were made following the World Junior Championships in which Ford reached the final with England Under-20s.
The shortlist is selected by a voting of team head coaches and match officials, as well as media at the tournament.
Cane and Whitelock will be hoping to make it five in a row for New Zealand, while Ford would be the first Englishman to win the award.
Ford said: “It’s a massive honour to be nominated, especially when you consider that the likes of Luke McAllister and Isaia Toeava are among previous winners.
“It was a massive team effort over there [in the World Junior Championships] and, while we were gutted not to win the whole thing, we performed well and can take a lot from the competition. I can’t take too much credit for the nomination, we had a squad of 26 players who all played their part.
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “These three players excelled in Italy and they reflect the exciting talent that was on show in a tournament which continues to go from strength to strength."
The winner will be announced at the IRB Awards in Auckland on October 24.