Your mock drafts are all wrong. My predictions, too.
The San Francisco 49ers stayed at No. 30 and took Jimmie Ward, a strong safety out of Northern Illinois. That marks the second consecutive season the 49ers have drafted a safety with their first round pick after taking Eric Reid last year. The first sentence of NFL.com’s Ward draft bio is “Has a child.” So, he and Reid share a few similarities.
However, Ward is not the same kind of safety as Eric Reid. Ward didn’t just attend a smaller school, he’s a smaller person in general (5′ 10 5/8″, 193 lbs). His arms are just 31″ — not exactly T-Rex length, but not a prototypical go-go-gadget arms pick we’ve become accustomed to since Trent Baalke became the team’s GM.
So, why Ward? Apparently he can cover, and that’s something the 49ers desperately need. It’s possible we can pencil in Ward as the slot corner now and put our pencils down until September. He had seven interceptions in his senior year, including one he returned for a touchdown against Purdue.
Harbaugh on Ward: He’s going to play safety with corner skills… Will have a shot at the nickel position. #49ersDraft
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) May 9, 2014
Another bonus: he’s coming off an injury! The 49ers must be thrilled.
Jimmie Ward had surgery March 11 for a Jones’ fracture in his foot. — Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) May 9, 2014
According to what I’m reading (I’ll freely admit that I wasn’t all that knowledgeable about Ward before today — OK, that’s putting it lightly), Ward may have solidified his reputation with the 49ers at the Senior Bowl.
He came off a 95-tackle, seven interception senior season at NIU and then further impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl. NFLDdraftScout.com’s Rob Rang said Ward was the Senior Bowl’s most impressive pass defender.
For the NFL, Ward would fit as a free safety. He isn’t the biggest safety, but he is adept in pass coverage. Ward showcased his nice coverage ability at the Senior Bowl. He could help to defend slot receivers in the NFL. Ward proved in college that he’s a good tackler and could function as the last line of defense.
Al.com (Ward is from Mobile, Ala.):
Reese’s Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage considers Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward as the best defensive back during the all-star game’s practices.
Savage released his ratings of the defensive backs on the Senior Bowl’s website on Tuesday. Savage is a former NFL assistant coach, scout, player-personnel director and general manager.
Ward is a former Port City prep star at Davidson. Savage said Ward, who weighed in at 191 pounds, had the potential to become a starter in the NFL.
“Jimmie returned home to Mobile and impressed with his aggressive and energetic style of play,” Savage wrote. “His versatility to cover a slot receiver in man-to-man or range from the middle-of-the-field in zone will elevate his draft stock this spring. Despite his measured size, expect him to add 5 to 10 pounds in the next year and contribute right away in some capacity for an NFL team in 2014.”
Many had the 49ers moving up in the draft to select a receiver, but reportedly Odell Beckham was the player the 49ers coveted and he went 12th overall to the New York Giants and that was a little too high for the 49ers’ liking. Cornerback Justin Gilbert (my choice) went eighth, a little higher than most had him pegged. Kyle Fuller went 14th, leaving Darqueze Dennard and Jason Verrett as presumably the two most logical picks if the 49ers were to move up and grab a corner.
Matt Maiocco reported earlier today that the 49ers didn’t love any of the cornerbacks enough to move up in the draft, and he was correct. Instead, the 49ers stood pat and grabbed a versatile player who can compete for the slot role and possibly step in if Eric Reid or Antoine Bethea get hurt. Since Reid suffered two concussions in his rookie season, that could’ve played into the 49ers’ thinking.
Since none of us have any idea what the 49ers will do in the draft — or if Ward will pan out — all there is to do is wait and see and welcome him to the team (if you’re a friendly 49ers fan, anyway). Ward himself has to be pleased with how today went; the only person outside the organization who thought the 49ers might take him might have been … Ward.