Scouting The Draft: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois

Mark A. Cunningham

We continue to look at some of the top prospects in regards to the New York Jets

Introduction

If you follow me on Twitter you will know that I'm a massive Jimmie Ward guy, to the point where he may be my favourite prospect in the entire draft. When I watch his tape, it just jumps off the screen at me. Whether he is making plays in centre field or blocking punts (which he is an expert at). Jimmie is a guy I want on the Jets and a player I would actively target going into the draft.

Jimmie Ward was a three year starter in 6A competition in Alabama, earning defensive MVP his senior season. His numbers were exceptional throughout and he performed on both defense and on special teams. So it was slightly confusing when he was rated as just a 2* prospect by many main stream recruiting sites like Rivals. Despite drawing some interest from teams such as Auburn and Florida State his offers list was limited to just five. In the end he chose Northern Illinois as his destination.

To start the process, Jimmie was probably looking at the 4th round. However after a very strong showing at the Senior Bowl where Todd McShay said he was the best cover safety on show, his stock will continue to rise to the point where I think he could go very early 2nd round. Which means we're in a situation if we want to take him.

Measurables

Height: 5'11

Weight: 192lb's

Class: Senior

Projected 40: 4.5 - 4.6

Statistics

*All statistics are taken from Sports Reference*

Year Tackles For A Loss Sacks Interceptions Pass Defenses
2013 95 2.5 1 7 10
2012 104 1.0 0 3 14
2011 100 2.5 1 1 5
2010 20 0 0 0 1

Positives

  • Coverage: Jimmie Ward is an exceptional cover safety, he will play deep a lot of the time, but he is a ball hawking cover guy. Someone who will make a play but not get beat trying to go for it.
  • Angles: A few years ago, a lot of people loved Taylor Mays at safety. I wasn't one of them because I kept saying he took poor angles and you can't have that as a last line. Ward takes good to great angles to the ball carrier almost every single time, that's reliability.
  • Intelligence: A guy who diagnoses a play and makes the right decisions. If you saw the play where Chancellor came off Julius Thomas last night to break up a pass to Welker, that's the kind of intelligence and play recognition you want at the back, Ward has that in spades.
  • Ball Skills: If you watch Ward and some of the interceptions he comes down with, you'd instantly get where I'm coming from here. He plays the ball in the air as well as any safety I've seen coming out of college.
  • Quickness: Often is matched up with receivers in the slot or tight-ends and his flexibility in the hips as well as his lateral ability enable him to stay with the receivers even on quick patterns.
  • Tackling: Works to the ball very well and although he is capable of delivering a big hit, he wraps up and brings the player down as the primary focus. If he can deliver a message at the same time, he will.
  • Run Support: Although he is known primarily as a coverage safety, his ability against the run is above average. Manages to use his hands to shed blockers and comes down hill quickly.
  • Special Teams: Impact player, has blocked numerous punts during his time at Northern Illinois and his tackling ability make him a very valuable special teams player.
Negatives
  • Size - This is a big one as he is under 6" and only a touch above 190lb's. At the NFL level, players are bigger and faster, will his small size cause him to have problems he hasn't experienced.
  • Competition: Playing in the MAC, he hasn't faced the toughest of competitors, although it's not his fault, this will be held against him by many.
  • Elite Speed: Although Ward is not slow by any means, he likes to keep plays in front of him, if you get an NFL speed star out into the open and it's a race to the corner, I don't think he has the speed to get there.
Conclusion

As mentioned at the top of the article, personally I think that Jimmie Ward is going to be a star. Unfortunately like with many small school players, his stock will just continue to rise until he's on the fringe of being selected as a first round player. He's already turned heads at the senior bowl with his coverage ability. Unfortunately I just can't see us getting Jimmie as I think his stock soars and he goes between picks 25 in round 1 and 10 in round 2. Obviously we are not in that range and need to use our selections on offensive weapons. However if he does drop to round two, if he is BPA on the board, I would select him without any hesitation. If by a miracle he lasts until our selection in round three (stranger things have happened) then if we don't select him, I'm going to be very disappointed.

Video Highlights

Jimmie Ward Best Highlights # 15 - SS - Junior - NIU - Video By: Nova Nickk (via Nova Nickk)

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