2014 NFL Draft Prospect: Jimmie Ward

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Free agency has all but ground to a halt. Though the New York Jets 2014 roster has started to take shape, the team has twelve draft picks and can add a much needed infusion of talent. One of the major areas of need for the Jets is in the secondary, both at safety and corner. With this in mind, lets take a look at a possible early target for the team, Jimmie Ward.

Resume

  • 2013: Third-team All-American, first-team All-MAC, and a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist
  • 2012: First-team All-MAC
  • 2011: First-team All-MAC

Strengths:

  • Coverage: Easily the most impressive aspect of Ward’s game is his versatility. Ward was tasked with with both playing the single high safety in a cover one and dropping into the slot in nickel packages. In man coverage, Ward is active and physical, able to jam larger receivers at the line. In zone, Ward can quickly diagnose the play and anticipate a route. Because Ward can play both man and zone, a creative defensive mind (read: Rex Ryan) can use the safety to disguise his alignments. Here on coverage on the inside man, he flips his hips well and shows good use of his hands.

  • Tackling: Ward is not shy when it comes to contact and displays good discipline when choosing an angle. He spent some time in the box at Northern Illinois where he showed an ability to hit the gap and and squeeze the edge. However, he tends to lead with his helmet and go for the knees against larger runners (a tendency that will need to be addressed at the next level).

  • Ball Skills: As I mentioned earlier, Ward has good anticipation. His understanding of the game and the route tree help him be in the right place at the right time. Both in man and zone coverage he is adept at breaking on and high pointing the ball. He will use his physicality to box out a receiver for a contested pass.

  • Range: Some have questioned Ward’s speed but this issue was not apparent on tape and at his pro-day (4.45 40 yard dash). Ward flies around the field and always seems to be near the ball. He is tremendous when breaking from the deep center field and makes up ground quickly.

Weaknesses:

  • Size: Ward is 5’11”, 193 pounds. This is not the ideal size for a deep cover safety. Though he adapts with an impressive vertical ability (38″ at his pro day) and physicality, receivers at the pro level may be able to over take him.
  • Durability: Ward has a small frame and may not be able to bulk up at the next level. On appearance alone, he looks like an average sized cornerback. His early career showed no signs of injury but recent foot surgery kept him out of the combine. Though he only missed one career game due to injury, his size will frighten some teams.
  • Strength: Though he is physical, Ward does not have ideal strength. Though he can play in the box when off the line, he is often manhandled by a run blocking wide out when playing press man. When attempting to tackle on the second level, he tends to get blocked out and struggles to disengage.

Fit With the Jets

The Jets secondary is depleted. Allen and Landry are the penciled in starters. The cornerback spot across from Milliner will likely be manned by a rookie. One effective way to mitigate the issues that will arise when starting a first and second year corner is provide safety help. Landry and Allen do not have the skill set to help the young cornerbacks. While a rookie may not be ideal, Ward could be the coverage safety the Jets need to mask the unavoidable growing pains at corner.

Conclusion: Rex Ryan has all but ignored the safety position in his time with the Jets. Since Kerry Rhodes left for the desert, the Jets have not had a true cover safety. Though we say it every year, now may be the time to buck the trend. Ward could go anywhere from the late first to the third and would provide tremendous value on day two. He would come right in and platoon at safety and should eventually start opposite Allen. The versatility of Allen and Ward would provide Rex Ryan with impressive flexibility in the secondary.

11 thoughts on “2014 NFL Draft Prospect: Jimmie Ward

  1. Good breakdown of Ward. I love this kid, but I’m afraid the Earl Thomas hype may catapult him into the end of the 1st round or beginning of the 2nd round, therefore taking him off the board for the Jets.

  2. As someone who attended NIU games regularly (yes there are Jets fan living in the Chicagoland area), I would be pretty happy if we can get him. Dude was all over the field and it felt like I was watching a man among boys. Would be even happier if he somehow fell to us in the 2nd round.

    Off topic to the TOJ staff. Did I read something on your twitter feed about attending the Jets/Packers game this season? If so, you better do it because I will need someone to tailgate with as I will also be attending the game. Get it done!!

  3. LeeBur – We are hoping to attend that game this year and if we do, we’ll definitely plan to stop by the tailgate!

    Bart – It will be very interesting to see how much the impact of Seattle’s safety play last year pumps up the value of a player like Ward. I still wonder if a Rex Ryan led team will ever draft a safety in the early rounds…

  4. Joe, im attending your tailgate. Didnt you know? im coming to drink all your beer and eat all your food.

    In what order do you guys rank Ward, Pryor, Ha-Ha? Or is there someone outside of those 3 you like more?

  5. haha sounds like a plan! Honestly, Connor and Cole have watched more overall film of all three so they would be better to ask but my personal opinion as of today is Dix and then Pryor as 2A and Ward as 2B.

  6. Joe. Nice work. Interesting that a team that gets how to build an NFL team, ie, Steelers think this might be the deepest draft in 30 years:

    “Steelers GM Kevin Colbert called this draft class the most talented he has seen in his 30 years on the job.”

    I’m assuming the Idzik was planning ahead and was trying to obtain as many compensatory picks as he could for this year’s draft. We should be able to fill some holes and just as important add some much needed depth to the roster. Something that Tanny overlooked and which finally cost him his job along with bad judgement calls such as the Tebow signing.

  7. Thanks Frank! However, our man Cole wrote up this one up on Jimmie Ward but I do agree that having 12 picks in this draft could be particularly valuable

  8. Cole/Joe- was wondering how good you think these top 3 safetys are. would you take any of them over the following………..
    Lee
    Cooks
    OBJ
    Amaro
    Ford

  9. I like Pryor best as a cover safety and Ward as an all around. Clinton-Dix is a poor tackler and takes bad angles. I would take Pryor over Amaro and Ford but not over the WRs. I wouldn’t take Ward or Dix over any.

  10. The safety class in the ’14 draft has some real intriguing prospects (Ward, Pryor, HaHa, Bailey, Ladler, Reynolds) but they all come with flaws (what prospect doesn’t?).

    Personally I think Pryor, HaHa, and Ward are the top 3 safeties in this draft and are all “round 2″ selections in terms of grading.

    Clinton-Dix needs a ton of work on his tackling. That Alabama front seven bailed him out a lot. In coverage he is pretty fluid and lengthy. If you let him roam, he can make some big time plays. I also think he is suited to cover TE’s which is a huge asset in the modern NFL.

    Pryor is a walking highlight reel. He hits like a truck and has made a few ridiculous interceptions (one handed at times). He takes pretty poor angles when tackling and often lines up for the kill shot too often. Louisville had him playing extremely deep, possibly to put a band-aid over his limited foot speed/range. Curious to see his range in the NFL.

    Cole did a great job covering Ward in this write up. I have to say, his size is a pretty big concern for me at the moment. With that being said, if you let this guy roam free in a Rex Ryan defense, he might thrive. They’ve been missing a big time ballhawk.

    All round 2 selections in my opinion.

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