Northern Illinois Huskies product Jimmie Ward is one of the three safety prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft class with a strong chance of going in the first round. While most people have Ward as a second-round pick, I’ve always penciled him in as a 20-32 pick, and I usually end up mocking him to the FS-needy Green Bay Packers. While Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is my top-ranked safety, I don’t have Ward far behind, though I would also understand if somebody ranked the toolsy Calvin Pryor above Ward. Anyway, Ward is the best coverage safety in the draft class, as he can excel in zone or man, covers the slot or deep, possesses solid instincts against the pass and run, and he has top-shelf ball skills.
The Baltimore Ravens could use a new starting free safety, and that has to be their biggest need on defense. In fact, the only need on their roster bigger is the need for a starting right tackle, which will hopefully be filled up by Notre Dame standout Zack Martin. The Ravens aren’t expected to take a safety in the first round of the class, so Ward would be a perfect option in the second (if he’s still available, which is a big “if” at this juncture) as a coverage safety opposite of second-year SS Matt Elam, who played well as a first-round rookie despite playing out of position at FS (current Detroit Lions safety James Ihedigbo was their strong safety).
According to the Carroll County Times’s Matt Zenitz, the Ravens “like” Jimmie Ward, and “one member of the organization” told Zenitz that Ward has “some Ed Reed-like characteristics as a playmaker”. That quote could be part of a smokescreen, but I think it’s safe to say that the Ravens should watch closely for Ward on draft day, in addition to Clinton-Dix and some second-tier safeties in this draft class.