Jimmie Ward NFL Draft 2014: Highlights, Scouting Report for 49ers Safety

Ian WhartonContributor IMarch 18, 2014

Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward (15) intercepts a pass intended for Toledo wide receiver Alonzo Russell (9) in the first quarter an NCAA college football game in Toledo, Ohio, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois (HT: 5’11⅝”; WT: 193 lbs.)

San Francisco 49ers

First Round: 30th Pick

Combine Weigh-In
5'11"193 lbs31"9 3/8"
Combine Results
40-yard dash10-yd splitVertBroad3-ConeShuttle



  • 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.
Collegiate Statistics


Personal Notes

  • 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.


Ratings Chart

Graph made by http://nces.ed.gov



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