Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois (HT: 5’11⅝”; WT: 193 lbs.)
First Round: 30th Pick
|5'11"||193 lbs||31"||9 3/8"|
|40-yard dash||10-yd split||Vert||Broad||3-Cone||Shuttle|
- Great downfield speed, both in games and at his pro day, where he ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash despite needing surgery on his foot.
- Very fluid athlete with clean hips. This allows him to be a solid cornerback or safety without being a mismatch for the defense.
- Short-area burst helps him close quickly on the ball. He breaks toward the ball almost instantly, getting into position for an interception or pass defense.
- Quick feet and balanced technique during his backpedal. He doesn’t waste steps in coverage. He’s able to pivot and explode toward the ball.
- Recognizes plays quickly and fairly consistently, allowing him to break toward the line of scrimmage or back into coverage with his first step.
- Great versatility, as he often lined up as a slot cornerback to take advantage of his lateral agility while also seeing time at both safety spots.
- Showed good functional strength and hand placement when in press coverage. He wins at the line of scrimmage, which is very important for cornerbacks.
- Well-rounded athlete who mirrors receivers well in man coverage. He stays on the hip of his assignment and breaks up passes at the last second, using physical traits.
- Solid ball skills that evolved throughout his career. He totaled seven interceptions in 2013 and showed the ability to high-point with timing and steal the ball from bigger receivers.
- Limits yards after reception because he’s an excellent tackler. He wraps up and hits low, using his body to effectively stop the ball-carrier.
- Has the physical ability to make up for mental mistakes, a trait of all good playmaking defensive backs.
- Anticipates routes well, baiting the quarterback to throw and then jumping the route.
- Excellent production throughout his career, almost notching three consecutive 100-tackle seasons as a defensive back, which is incredible. He plays inside the box well, willing to take on blockers and ball-carriers.
- Lacks NFL size, with his weight and frame being a concern. With how he hits and how often he spends time in the box, his durability is a concern.
- Takes poor angles in run support, often over-pursuing when crashing down as a safety. This may improve if he plays the position more consistently.
- Eye discipline is still developing, as a quarterback’s eyes can move him on play action. He was responsible for blowing a few coverages in 2013 due to lack of discipline.
- Rarely played as a single-high safety, which is what NFL teams covet right now. He’s more of a do-it-all player than someone who plays in a specialized role. That’s a positive, but not every team can afford to invest in a player without a defined position.
- Loses track of receivers in zone coverage. He tends to wander without awareness of where the closest man is.
- Can be too physical downfield, continuing contact with his man as far as 15 yards downfield. He has to jam and disrupt much earlier than that to avoid penalties.
- Rarely played good competition at quarterback and wide receiver. He’s going to have to catch up to speed quickly.
- 2014 Senior Bowl participant.
- First-team All Mid-American Conference in 2012 and 2013.
- Semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award in 2013.
- General studies major.
- Former Rivals.com 2-star recruit from Mobile, Ala.
Ward has physical concerns that could cause him to slip out of the first round of the NFL draft, but a team with a creative and willing defensive scheme would be wise to draft Ward.
A very good press cornerback in the slot and dangerous safety, Ward can wreak havoc all over the field. He projects as a good starter, with a high ceiling due to his good instincts.
Draft Projection: First-Second Round
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