Packers 2014 NFL Draft Profile: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
It’s no secret that the Green Bay Packers need help at safety. After all, the team just went an entire season without a safety making a single interception. Furthermore, the team has never been able to adequately replaced former Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins, who suffered a career-ending injury in 2011.
Since Collins departure, Morgan Burnett has been the Packers top safety but even he is coming off a very disappointing season, which is making people re-think the four-year extension the team gave to former Georgia Tech standout last offseason.
Yet, the 2014 NFL Draft should provide the perfect opportunity for Green Bay to finally fill the void left by Collins as this year’s safety group is one of the stronger, deeper groups in recent memory.
Today, we are going to take a look at one of the safeties that Green Bay should be interested in come draft day and one, who very well could end in a Packers uniform next season — Jimmie Ward.
Ward is a fourth-year senior from Northern Illinois, who played strong safety for the Huskies and was a three-year starter. Last season, the 5-10, 195-pounder, made a huge impact recording 93 tackles, seven interceptions and one sack.
Ward was also highly productive in his junior and sophomore seasons, notching over 100 tackles each year and added four interceptions, giving him a total of 11 for his career.
Considering the Packers have had major issues with their safeties forcing turnovers recently, Ward would make sense simply due to his ball skills and playmaking ability.
Yet, Ward can do so much more than make big plays. He is an extremely versatile player that has the athleticism to play the deep middle but has also shown he can play down in the box and is a proven tackler. In fact, throughout his college career he was more of a box safety then a free safety.
Ward lacks the ideal size of a strong safety in the NFL but with his 4.49 in the forty-yard-dash, he has the athleticism to also cover in space and was even used to cover slot receivers for the Huskies, something that bodes well for his future.
Versatile safeties are extremely valuable and even though he may not be ideal as a strong safety, it’s almost better nowadays to have two safeties that are interchangeable instead of being defined as a free or strong safety.
Ward also fits the kind of player that Packers general manager Ted Thompson likes to select. The Packers have a history of taking seniors that are experienced players, especially early in the draft and the former Northern Illinois standout definitely has to be on their radar.
Right now, Ward’s stock seems to be on the rise and I’ve even seen some mock drafts that have him going to the Packers with the 21st overall pick.
My belief is that the Packers wouldn’t take him quite that high but there is a possibility of trading down in the first round or being fortunate enough to have Ward fall to them in round two.