Jimmie Ward   S/CB   Northern Illinois

TALENT BOARD ROUND 1

STRENGTHS
Jimmie has the size and look of a cornerback playing safety. He has all the skills a top cornerback has…playing safety. He has good cover skills, is smart and has those long arms that give him a good defensive radius to trail a receiver and still make a play on the ball. He has quick feet and a nice hip flip; he is solid when coming up to support the run. He is a strong tackler when he uses correct form and what I like about him is that he will make the tackle even when he has poor form. He has the size to handle those big pass catching tight ends. Jimmie is mentally tough and can play multiple positions in your defensive backfield. His college team used him as an in-the-box safety, a free safety in single coverage and as a nickel-dime slot cover safety. I believe they have used him this way because he gets the job done when he tackles. Jimmie has a lot more skills than your typical safety. I believe he has the cover skills to be used as a cornerback or safety in any style of defense and that makes Jimmie a very skilled and valuable player in this draft.

CONCERNS
Personally I think Jimmie is more of a corner than a safety because although he is a good tackler and gets the job done, he is not an impact tackler who stops players from making third downs. He gets them down, but at times struggles against the bigger players and running backs. If he stays at safety it will be as a free safety and not as an in-the-box safety. Jimmie also doesn’t show the leadership skills and communication skills that I like to see in my safeties, but in his defense, they move him around so much I’m sure all he is thinking about is his responsibilities and not others’. The real question will be whether or not Jimmie has the make up speed when he gets beat to be a cover corner as well as a cover safety for the next level. I think he does.

BOTTOM LINE
Jimmie is very talented and underrated at this point of the draft. His cover skills are very good and his football instincts are excellent. I really do think that Jimmie is a cover corner with the skills to shut most down in the NFL, but if after his workouts he shows just safety skills, you still are drafting a player who can play multiple positions for you in man-to-man or zone coverages. As far as being a leader, I think that once Jimmie gets settled, those skills will materialize as well. He is a tough kid and a willing tackler; with his quick feet and defensive radius, he can impact right away for the team that selects him. Competition level is always an issue when drafting defensive backs. Most defensive backs are rated on size-speed ratio and competition level because going up against top receivers is truly the only way you can project a defensive back’s ability to be successful at the next level. That means what round Jimmie gets selected in will depend a lot on his measurables. If his measurables are outstanding, you can expect Jimmie to be selected in the 1st round of this draft. If his measurables are just good, expect him to be selected later, but that doesn’t mean to me that Jimmie will not be an impact player. What I see on film is what I see on film and what I see is a multi-talented defensive back that tackles and covers well enough to be a safety or a cornerback at the next level for the team that drafts him.

Drew Boylhart
MAR/2014