The NFL draft is coming, and quickly. By now, most teams like the Chicago Bears have an idea of players they want to target in the first round. As things sit today, the Bears own the eighth overall pick in the draft. Now, there are many rumors saying that general manager Ryan Pace would like to trade back in order to recoup picks from the Mitch Trubisky trade last year.
Of course, things would change if either Quenton Nelson or Bradley Chubb were available at eight. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely to happen, which means the Bears have a lot to think about. Do they trade down or stay at eight?
There has also been chatter that the Bears could stay at eight if another player was available. That player is Denzel Ward, a cornerback out of Ohio State. Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com claims that the Bears love two players–Quenton and Ward.
“The offer will have to be significant if either Nelson or Ward is available when the Bears are called to the clock, as the team is very high on both players.”
“The logic on this potential play is rock-solid, as Pauline notes that the Bears like the idea of replenishing their draft capital after trading up with the 49ers last spring in order to select UNC QB Mitch Trubisky. That said, the analyst forwards that should either Ohio State CB Denzel Ward or Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson be available at No. 8 later this month, any trade would require a bit more beef to push them off the pick, as they very much like both players. One last note from Mr. Pauline — if the Bears do ultimately trade out of their current draft slot, Colorado CB Isaiah Oliver is one player they would potentially consider further down the board.”
Interesting to say the least.
Ward is a popular name in this year’s draft because of what his former teammate did last year as a rookie in the NFL. Marshon Lattimore was one of the best corners in the game last season. He also helped the Saints defense become a respectable unit, which says something. Many believe Ward can have a similar impact in the NFL.
The question now becomes, does Ward provide value as the number eight overall pick in the first round? Below, I will attempt to answer that very question with a scouting report.
Name: Denzel Ward
School: Ohio State
Size: 5’11,” 183LBS
Patient. Patience is a tough thing to teach, especially in a game like football. Yet, Ward has proven time and time again that he posses that skill. When playing in press coverage, Ward shows no signs of panic. Instead, it’s his patience that gives him an edge over his opponent. Initial movements from the receiver don’t fool Ward, which is huge for a cornerback at any level.
Footwork. To be successful against the best receivers in the NFL, a player has to be able to match the receiver stride for stride. Ward can do just that with his amazing footwork. Ward can match any route the receiver runs, and then some. On film, it looks like Ward is the receiver instead of the defensive back at times. His outstanding footwork also allows him to change direction and speed with ease.
Low Completion Percentage. I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of the completion percentage stat when breaking down defensive backs, but Ward’s numbers are too good to overlook. Over the last two seasons at Ohio State, Ward has allowed a completion percentage of around 32 percent. Yes, just 32 percent. He also played in the Big Ten. That’s impressive, and that’s coming from a guy who doesn’t like the stat.
Instincts. Ward has all the athletic ability in the world, but none of that would matter if he didn’t trust his instincts. On tape, it’s easy to see why Ward is the number one corner in this draft class. He just has a “feel” for the game. He is money against slants mostly because he can anticipate when the route is coming, and because of his speed.
Closing Speed. Above I described how well Ward can play the slant. Part of it is instincts, the other part is closing speed. Ward’s ability to close in on a receiver over the middle or downfield is impressive. This allows him to jump in front of passes on a consistent basis, which allows him to rack up pass deflections and interceptions.
Size. Ward isn’t the ideal size of an NFL corner at 5’11.” This allows big-bodied wide receivers to take advantage of him from time-to-time. His size also limits him when trying to make a one-on-one tackle against a bigger player, whether it be a receiver, tight end, or running back.
Destined for Slot. For now, Ward is considered an outside corner, but that could change. Personally, I think he belongs in the slot given his solid footwork and closing speed. The problem with that is corners who play primarily on the inside are usually not top 10 picks. Yet, there is a great chance Ward is taken in the top 10.
Other than size, it’s hard to find negatives in Ward’s game. His skill-set tells me he will eventually make the move inside. Though, it wouldn’t hurt for a team to try and experiment with him on the outside. His athleticism could also allow him to do both.
With that being said, the Bears are in a tough spot here. If Ward is there at eight, the Bears can pick him and have one of the best secondaries in the NFC with Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Eddie Jackson, and Adrian Amos. They would also be able to use Ward to replace Bryan Callahan, who has not yet resigned with the team after he was given an original round tender.
It’s hard for me to justify taking Ward at eight given the fact he’s a corner. He does fit the Ryan Pace typical draft pick though–very athletic with a high upside. It wouldn’t shock me if the Bears did decide to take Ward at eight. The question is will he still be on the board?