Photo of DENZEL WARD
Grade
6.13 ?

Draft Analysis:

  • 5'10" Height
  • 191LBS. Weight

Overview

OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs told reporters last spring that Ward was a "gifted player" and truly a "third starter" at cornerback, joining 2017 first-round picks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley. Ward proved his coach correct, earning first-team All-American and all-conference accolades in 2017 with 37 tackles, two for loss, two interceptions, and 15 pass breakups (ranked in the top 10 in the nation). He earned honorable mention All-Big Ten notice from league media as a non-starter in 2016, playing 30 snaps a game on defense. Ward tied Lattimore for the team lead with nine pass breakups on the year (23 tackles), never giving up on a play and being quite physical despite his average size for the position. Ward got onto the field as a true freshman, making seven tackles, primarily on special teams. Ward was a first-team All-Ohio pick and Division II Co-Defensive Player of the Year as a high school senior (nine interceptions, 18 pass breakups). He also qualified for the state track meet as a long jumper and part of the 4x400 relay.

Analysis

Strengths

Supreme athletic ability. Expected to be impressive Combine tester. Can park in a deep squat under wide receiver's chin at the line. Patient from press showing no panic or hurry in initial movements. Can pedal and mirror for a long time without opening hips. Tremendously gifted footwork. Mirrors and matches with good balance throughout the route. Matches changing route speed stride for stride. Plays from low side of route to take away comebacks. Uses big burst for recovery and closeouts. Carries true long speed down the field. Reads clues from off-man. Reads slants and drives in front of the route in search of an interception. Allowed just over 32 percent completions over last two years. Ballhawk with sudden hands to attack the throw. Bats throws down and will swirl arms around the catch point to prevent target from finishing the catch.

Weaknesses

Frame is somewhat slight and he feels small in coverage at times. Lacks play strength to jam and disrupt. Appears to avoid route contact so he doesn't upset coverage balance. Physical receivers can body him around at the top of the route. Needs to turn and find football sooner with back to the ball. Always around the throw, but lack of size and length shows up with "just misses" in pass defense. Several pass breakups came on throws with poor placement. Coverage benefitted from deep, talented rush unit up front. Has issues disengaging from big blocking receivers. Big backs drag him for a ride in run support.

Draft Projection

Round 1

NFL Comparison

Chris Harris Jr.

Bottom Line

Ward has the experience and talent to handle duties on the outside, but his lack of play strength combined with his elite footwork might be the deciding factor for a move inside. Ward is outstanding as a mirror-and-match cornerback with great route feel who is able to maintain tight coverage around the field with good technique and pattern recognition. He should become an early starter at nickel cornerback with the talent to make an immediate impact for a defense that faces a pass-happy division foe twice per year.
-Lance Zierlein
C
Grade Title
9.00-10 Once-in-lifetime player
8.00-9.00 Perennial All-Pro
7.50-7.99 Future All-Pro
7.00-7.49 Pro Bowl to All-Pro Ability
6.50-6.99 Good NFL Starter with Pro Bowl Potential
6.00-6.49 Chance to become good NFL starter
5.70-5.99 Could become early NFL starter
5.30-5.69 Backup or eventual starter
5.15-5.29 Developmental prospect or special teams potential
5.01-5.14 Back end of the roster
5.00 50/50 Chance of making the roster

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