Denzel Ward Sits Out Cotton Bowl, Declares for 2018 NFL Draft

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2017

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 11: Denzel Ward #12 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action during a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Ohio Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State won 48-3. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward announced his intention to enter the 2018 NFL draft prior to Friday's Cotton Bowl Classic against USC. 

Ward announced shortly before kickoff he would not be suiting up with his teammates for their bowl game:

Denzel Ward @denzelward

Go bucks! https://t.co/DfBOKYQzhO

Per an official release from Ohio State, via Dan Hope of Eleven Warriors, Ward will not return for his senior season next year. 

The junior corner recorded 37 tackles and two interceptions in 13 games for the Buckeyes in 2017.

B/R NFL draft analyst Matt Miller ranks Ward as the No. 2 cornerback and No. 20 overall prospect in the upcoming draft class. Listed at 5'10" and 191 pounds, Ward did not officially start until this past season—though he was a regular part of the corner rotation in 2016.

"Denzel is amazing," teammate Damon Arnette told 247Sports. "You can see how fast he is. I think by him playing on special teams his freshman year, he was able to show his explosiveness. He would burst downfield and make tackles.

"Then last year, he had a great camp. The first few games they put him in the rotation, he just did what he was supposed to do."

Ward could become the fourth Ohio State corner in the last three years and fifth in five years to go in the first round. 

Size and top-end speed are the two major concerns with Ward, as he's on the low end of ideal on the height scale and isn't going to set blazing 40 times.