Overview: Small-school product Jimmie Ward‘s versatility is his hallmark. Ward has lined up at every defensive backfield position for Northern Illinois University in his 4-year career. CBSSports.com rates the MAC conference product as a heavy hitter with good closing speed. NFLDraftScout.com analyst Rob Rang called him the most impressive secondary player at the Senior Bowl. His all-star game performance allayed fears that Jimmie Ward was simply a big-fish in a small-school pond.
Jimmie Ward not only likes to hit, he had 7 interceptions in 2013. He has experience matching up with slot receivers and shows good range. The concerns with Ward begin with his small size (5’10” 5/8, 193lbs.) and his problems wrapping up when tackling. Still, Ward’s range and playmaking ability make him a strong prospect in the 2014 NFL draft. Most analysts see him a more of a SS, but he could play FS due to his ball-hawking skills and his consistent good angles against ball-carriers.
Overall, Jimmie Ward’s ability to move around the defensive backfield make him a useful player in the nickel-happy NFL of 2014.
Bench: 9 reps
Ward only benched and interviewed at the combine. The Chicago Tribune reported that Ward put up an impressive 4.45 40-yd dash and 38-inch vertical leap at NIU’s Pro Day on 03/07/14.
Draft projection: Analysts vary on Jimmie Ward. Some see him as a late 2nd round prospect while others see him going as low as the 6th or 7th round. I suspect much of the variance has to do with his MAC conference background.
I believe Ward’s strong Senior Bowl and Pro Day showings legitimize his ability. He would be a value pickup at Kansas City’s 3rd round pick were he still available (the Chiefs lack a 2nd due to the Alex Smith trade last season). However, this evaluation depends on his ability to handle the deep zones from the free safety position. If Kansas City scouts see him as a SS due to lack of length, then he might not fit team needs.
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What about the rest of the Kingdom? Would Jimmie Ward be a good pick if the Chiefs could get him in the 3rd round? Make sure to leave your comments below.