Keep An Eye On: Northern Illinois Safety Jimmie Ward

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Jimmie Ward

Jimmie Ward

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.

About The Author

Monty McMahon is one of the founders of Total Packers. He is probably the most famous graduate of UW-Oshkosh next to Jim Gantner.

25 Comments on "Keep An Eye On: Northern Illinois Safety Jimmie Ward"

  1. Phatgzus

    That first pick was incredible, that hit devastating and completely within the rules, and he had great coverage on all 3 plays. Definitely gonna have to check more of his tape out.

    • K.L.

      I have a feeling Pryor will be off the board by the time our pick comes up. There are a few teams that really need a safety picking before us.

  2. TyKo Steamboat

    Yea the Pack like draften those small Michigan/Illinois schools.

    I can’t believe Raji has regressed the way he has. I mean, the dude was a 9th overall pick…he was in a contract year last year too. Seemed there in 2010 the sky was the limit for him.

    We’re definitely goen with defense in the 1st round. (Please dear Baby Jesus, don’t draft a TE in the 1st round.)

    • Phatgzus

      Was gonna say the Pack like their Midwestern (never understood the reason for the West, it’s literally smack dab in the middle of the country, whatever) farm boys-Bulaga, Cobb, Daniels, Hyde, Worthy are a few others, not to mention the 3 from So. Ill (at least I think it was So.) who were all given a chance to make the roster. Must fit their profile of “upstanding” players.

      • Iltarion

        It’s because the country started on the east coast. Everything else is west of there and thus far west or midwest.

        • Phatgzus

          Yeah, that makes sense, leave it to the older civilizations to think the world is smaller than it really is (as is likely our civilization is underestimating the size of the galaxy/universe/multiverse). Thanks for the “learn-something-new” moment Iltarion, you’ve successfully taught me about 1/10 in an instant as much about American history as my grade school teachers did collectively.

  3. TyKo Steamboat

    1st-round draft pick wish list:

    1.) Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame
    (assuming Raji is indeed gone)
    2.) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
    (assuming we don’t grab a proven safety in free agency)
    3.) Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan St.
    (assuming we cannot sign Sam Shields)

    & I honestly believe we will get one of these 3 guys. Good draft for defense this year & that is where the Packers’ needs are (with exception to the TE position)

    • Old Man At The Gym

      I can assure you that Clinton-Dix and Lou Nix with both be gone by the time GB picks.

      But yes, these 3 guys are all in the top 5/6 on my wish list too. Good list.

    • Phatgzus

      For me it’s:

      2)Mosely (long shot)
      3)Donald (assuming his combine and Senior Bowl improve his stock)
      4) Hageman
      5) Dennard

      Just not a big fan of C-D or Nix; Ha Ha has incredible instincts, great coverage and hands but he doesn’t strike me as a sure tackler (I think Pryor, Buchannon, and a couple others are more well-rounded), Lord knows we have enough “arm tacklers” in the secondary already. Reports on Nix are he’s supposedly explosive (compared to Raji often) but has
      just 2.5 sacks in his career and he takes plays off. Sorry but we already have/had a lazy 1st-round DT-it worked for 2 years then bit us in the giant tookus-and 2nd-rounder with the same stigma.

  4. Old Man At The Gym

    We’ve seen TT trade-up for studs he really likes (i.e. Clay Matthews)

    I think this will be a serious year for TT to make a splash with at least 1 name in free agency

    And I want everyone to quit mentioning Jarius Byrd. There is no way we will ever grab that guy. I heard today on NFL live he is fixen to be the highest paid Safety in the NFL. Grabbing an older Polamaulu for a 2/3 year contract seems far more reasonable.

  5. Vijay

    Ask yourselves, where do we most need the leadership, experience, play makers? The answer is all across our defense.

    However, we can’t re-sign all the players we had from last season and we may even lose a key guy or two (Shields, EDS, Jones, Kuhn). With nearly $28-30 in cap money, we will have the ability to bring back the best for the present (we hope–Shields, EDS and possibly Kuhn) but we will also have to address the future as well. This is a very tough spot to be in but other teams have it far worse.

    Taking the emotion out of it, could Casey Hayward step in a start at the boundary if we lose Sam? Could we forgo leadership and key plays at key times from James Jones, John Kuhn? Could we do w/o a proven Center in EDS who more than held his own as a first year starter and has the trust of A Rod?

    Obviously, losing Shields would be a blow to our defense but until FA scenarios play themselves out, we don’t have a proper pecking order in the draft for NEED, we just have a scenarios and possibilities. I’m confident Ted has either contingent plans for any scenario or a definite plan for what he’s looking to do going forward. However, we all know speed, athleticism and play making ability (more consistently on tape) are high draft day priorities. A guy like Jimmy Ward (great pro name btw) does offer better ball skills than a guy like Ha Ha or even my favorite, Calvin Pryor. So, if we imagine taking Micah Hyde and moving him to FS and having him test the waters against a rookie say Jimmy Ward, Deone Bucannon or Kenny Ladler (assuming we miss out on Pryor and Ha Ha), I think we’re good. But IF we lose Sam Shields, we have a big gamble on our hands and a lot unknowns in the secondary, so maybe we then look corner early and ahead of safety or maybe we bring in a veteran stop gap for either spot to compete (affordably of course). What scares me is having too many options and not enough clarity at defensive positions.

    I suppose as long as the focus defensively remains to upgrade speed, athleticism and yes, play making ability, especially from the safety spot, we are on paper improved…if all of us walk away from this off season shaking our heads with doubts, it could spell another short-lived playoff run (assuming our division rivals choke again).

    I feel Ted will plug a hole or two with experienced free agent depth on the defensive line and he might even make a trade (with a low round or compensatory pick) with a team like Jacksonville for a good veteran TE fill in like Marcedes Lewis, if J Mike doesn’t return. I feel he will re-sign EDS and Kuhn but draft Kuhn’s heir apparent late if at all. I’m not sure about Sam, especially with Rosenhaus as his agent. That leaves early round draft priority on FS, ILB and possibly Corner (though I think lesser of Corner). Since C.J. Mosley will be long gone by pick #21, let’s assume Ted waits awhile to pick an ILB since there’s a precipitous drop off after him. I would guess FS then becomes the most obvious 1st pick. But there’s no time to groom–he needs to be ready to compete day 1.

  6. Vijay

    It wouldn’t surprise me to see them take a TE in Rd1 now that I think about it. They could also move up a little in Rd2 and still pick up Ward, Bucannon or Ladler.
    That saves them $ on signing a vet TE in case J Mike can’t come back (likely).

    So, round 1 could be a tremendous pass catching talent like Austin Seferian-Jenkins (not w/o some pre madonna issues) or Jace Amaro (Eric Ebron would be long gone) and then grab safety nextRd2.

    • Phatgzus

      Agreed on the 1st post, Vij, but I just don’t see the Pack drafting a TE in the first round, let alone one with potential character issues (DUI). There will be plenty of talent at the position in the second round and later, and you just don’t draft a TE in Round 1, even Gronk and Graham were 2nd and 3rd-Rounders.

      I agree that the Pack will likely delve into free agency this year, particularly DT, which seems to be one of the deeper FA positions as well as a significant position of need seeing as the we may be without a legitimate two-gapper (maybe Boyd but that’s it) if Jolly, Raji, and Pickett all leave (which probably won’t happen-Jolly and/or Pickett will be back IMO).

      Lewis would be an interesting option-good red zone target, as is Chandler; guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

  7. king300

    When we talk about safeties all I keep hearing is they can hit. Well who really starts on the college level at safey and can’t tackle. And is even in the conversation of 1st or 2nd round pick.My thing is which of these guys have proven they can cover. We need a guy that is proven on both. If a team sees a guy lined up on a slot receiver that they know is only a tackler and not great at coverage. He is a target and a weak spot to move the chains

    • Vijay

      Re-watching Calvin Pryor tapes, it’s hard not to really want Ted to move up at least a few spots if he somehow gets past Pitt or Dallas. We may have to see a value chart and see if moving up 7 spots is even a consideration. Trading with St Louis (because the Bears may not wish to) may be the only option to grab Pryor. But, you never know, he could run a bad 40 time or something and drop to us…Combine time!!!

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