Here’s a guy who totally flew under our radar, at least up to this point. He’s Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward.
He wasn’t among the most highly-touted safeties in the 2014 NFL Draft when the college season ended, primarily because he played at Northern Illinois. We left him off our top draft-eligible safeties list entirely and God knows the Green Bay Packers need a safety.
Ward proved himself at the Senior Bowl and made a major jump on a lot of draft boards. Ward had all the stats in college, but he played in the MAC, so there were questions about whether he could compete against top-tier talent. The Senior Bowl proved he could in a lot of scouts’ minds.
Ward showed he can cover just about anybody. He handled both tight ends and slot receivers.
Now, there’s a chance he could be a late first-round pick. Most reports have Ward as the third-ranked safety in the class behind Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor.
He doesn’t have the physical stature of those guys, at 5-11, 192, but looks like he has the tools. Ward finished the 2013 season with 95 tackles, 7 INTs (one TD return), one sack and one forced fumble. He was also a three-year starter and had more than 100 tackles as sophomore and junior.
Ward will get to show his wares at the NFL Scouting Combine, which begins on Wednesday. We’ll be keeping an eye on him there.
In the meantime, you’ll want to watch these clips.
This video is way longer than it should be, but just watch up to the replay.