Jimmie Ward S Northern Illinois #15
Size/Athleticism: Good size/athleticism blend. Fast enough for man coverage but strong enough to play near the line against the run—the ideal blend for a strong safety.
Coverage: Used almost exclusively at free safety in zone coverage. Looked fluid and confident in limited man-to-man opportunities. Decent range but not elite. Fluid in his backpedal. Late to react and struggles to pick up the subtle movements of receivers that can give away their direction. Development still needed in man coverage. Quick-twitch athleticism is modest, causing him to struggle against elite slot receivers.
Ball skills: Does a great job reading the quarterback and breaking on the ball. Good hands with 11 career interceptions. A playmaker after the interception.
Run support: Quick to diagnose and closes quickly. Reliable wrap-up tackler. Lacks elite size and some runners will plow through him, but its rarely due to a lack of effort or poor technique.
Intangibles: Multiple reports exist about a lack of maturity but has never been suspended or in trouble with the law. It’s unclear if these issues have impact his status on the draft board of any teams.
Durability: Missed combine due to foot injury. Missed just one game in college and played in 55. Relatively small frame for the position does raise some minor concerns.
Comments: Ward reminds me of Quintin Mikell, whose ability to react and close quickly have made him a solid run defender despite modest size. Ward needs to continue to develop his man coverage skills in order to play strong safety in most schemes, but he has the tools to do so. He fits best at strong safety, which he played at NIU, but could transition to free safety if necessary.