Northern Illinois Huksies product Jimmie Ward is one of the big three 2014 NFL Draft prospects at the safety position, as he, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and Calvin Pryor are regarded as the only three safeties worth taking in the first-round of the draft. Where they are ranked depends on the evaluator, with Clinton-Dix being the consensus No. 1 safety, Pryor slotting in behind him, and Ward generally in third. I have Ward in second due to his ability to excel in zone and man coverage, but I can understand why some view Pryor as a first-round pick and Ward as a second-round pick. There is little doubt in my mind that Ward is the best coverage safety in this year’s draft class, and he can perform at a high level as a free safety due to his speed, range, instincts, and ball skills.
Ward sat out the combine with a foot injury, but he ran impressive 4.46, 4.51 40 times at his pro day before being placed on the shelf again when it was realized that he would indeed need surgery for a stress fracture. His initial timeline was set at six to eight weeks, and we are just about at that range.
According to ESPN’s Adam Caplan, tests on Ward’s surgically repaired foot have shown that he is healing well, and the star safety has been cleared to resume running. It’s incredible to think that he tested that well at his pro day while running on a foot injury, and it’s reminiscent of what New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Boyce did last year coming out of TCU. Ward is one of the top defensive backs in this year’s draft class, and he would be a nice pick for the Green Bay Packers at No. 21. At this point, his foot injury is no longer an issue, though it barely was to begin with.