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2018 Prospect Primer: CB Denzel Ward

Posted Feb 20, 2018

The corner out of Ohio State is expected to be an early starter and fit well with any team facing a pass-happy division.

The Big Ten cornerback has earned some big-time awards this past year. It was his only as a starter at Ohio State but at the conclusion of the season, Ward was named a First-Team All-American and All-Big Ten after recording 37 tackles, two for loss, two interceptions and 15 pass breakups, which ranked him in the top ten of all college players in 2017.

Perhaps what’s even more telling is that Ward earned an honorable mention in All-Big Ten honors for his 2016 season – when he wasn’t a starter. He played 30 snaps on defense that year and tied for the team lead with nine pass breakups and added 23 tackles.

According to NFL.com, Ward can back pedal extremely effectively and is able to mirror receivers and hold out in opening his hips and turning upfield to maintain coverage. His footwork is a big component in his ability to mirror and match. He ran track in high school and it shows, given that he’s able to keep up with receivers and match their speed stride for stride, according to NFL.com.

He also has the ability to read routes, especially slants, and will get in the way of the ball or pick it off. Just 32 percent of balls have reached their destination on his watch over the last two years.

His size and frame is of concern, according to NFL.com. Analysts say he feels small in coverage at times and lacks the strength to jam up receivers and disrupt or throw them off their routes. Because of this, experts think he may be better inside, playing the nickel cornerback position.

He’s drawn an NFL comparison to Chris Harris Jr. and is expected to become an early starter, especially for a team with a pass-happy division.

Daniel Jeremiah has Ward going eighth overall to the Chicago Bears in his mock draft 1.0.