Packers NFL Draft 2014: Jimmie Ward could be what the doctor orders next week : Packers Insider

Packers NFL Draft 2014: Jimmie Ward could be what the doctor orders next week

May 1, 2014 by  
Filed under News

By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider senior editor

~The play of the Packers safeties last year was perhaps the worst in the history of the National Football League.

Combined, all of them, they came up with a total of zero interceptions.
Zip. Zilch. Nada. Bagel. Donut.

They also forced a total of zero fumbles.

Not only that, but their tackling was shaky.

So out went Jerron McMillian, Ted Thompson’s 2012 fourth round draft pick.
Out went MD Jennings.

There are some plans to try Micah Hyde at the position, but he didn’t fare as well at Iowa at safety as he did as cornerback.

Sean Richardson came back last year after battling through back issues. He was an upgrade over Jennings and McMillian, but he didn’t appear to be the answer.

If Thompson ignores the safety position again in next week’s draft, as he did in 2013, 2012, and 2011, then perhaps they have more faith in Richardson, or Hyde, than the rest of us do. Chris Banjo is the other option, but as another undrafted guy, he’s not expected to be able to be a solid starting caliber safety for the team.

Who knows how Thompson ranks them. But it’s entirely possible that he could have Ward rated higher than Dix or Pryor.

Jimmie Ward from Northern Illinois is a guy who will almost certainly be around at pick #21, and quite possibly be there at #53 when their second round pick is up. Ward was born in Wisconsin too, Racine to be precise.

At only 5′ 11″, 192, he’s a bit smaller than what you want. But so was Earl Thomas and Kenny Vacarro. And each of those guys made their defenses better right away as rookies. Thomas now is the anchor of that great Seahawks defense.

Jimmie Ward can hit too

Let’s take a look at some analysis of Ward.

NFL.com (Nolan Nawricki) says this about Ward, and he (Nawricki) seems to value family first apparently.

Overview

Has a child. Prepped in Alabama. As a true freshman in 2010, he logged 21 tackles, one pass breakup and zero interceptions with one forced fumble and a school-record three blocked punts. Returned a blocked punt 15 yards for a touchdown. Played in all 14 games, seeing extensive action as a backup free safety and on special teams. Registered 100-4-1 with 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one blocked punt (against Army) in 14 games (12 starts at cornerback) in ’11. Led the Huskies in tackles in ’12 after posting 104-11-3 with one tackle for loss and one forced fumble in 13 starts at free safety. Missed the UMass game with sprained A/C joint in his right shoulder. In ’13, logged 95-10-7 with 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble in 14 starts. Had a 62-yard touchdown return for a score against Purdue. Did not work out at the combine because of a foot injury (medical exclusion).

Sep 28, 2013; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Northern Illinois Huskies safety Jimmie Ward (15) returns an interception for a touchdown against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross Ade Stadium. Northern Illinois won 55-24.

Analysis

Strengths

Intense, active and energetic. Zooms around the field and stands out on tape. Aggressive run supporter — triggers quickly, flies downhill and chops down ball carriers. Breaks on throws and shows short-area burst to close. Has quick hands to snatch interceptions. Confident and energetic. Experienced and productive. Has a 38-inch vertical jump.

Weaknesses

Size is just adequate — lacks ideal bulk and is built more like a cornerback than a safety. Bench-pressed 225 pounds just nine times at the combine, second fewest among DBs. Gets snagged on blocks and struggles to disengage. Can be a tick late diagnosing pass, gaining depth and digesting route combos. Lacks elite top-end speed. Inconsistent downfield ball reactions with his back to the throw. Shows lower-body stiffness in space. Could rub some people the wrong way. Has some maturing to do and needs to learn what it means to prepare like a pro.

Draft Projection

Rounds 2-3

Bottom Line

Wiry, active, aggressive strong safety at his best playing downhill and reacting to plays in front him, yet possesses the cover skill to range over the top or lock down defenders in the slot. Ability to stay healthy in the future given lack of size and durability is the biggest concern. A very talented football player who could slide a round or two based on size, medical evaluations and attitude. Can contribute immediately at any safety position and positively affect the game if healthy and focused.

-Nolan Nawrocki

Ward could be just what the doctor ordered for Dom Capers’ defense.

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