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Cowboys Draft 2014: Scouting Jimmie Ward

Because there has been such a high correlation in recent years between the top collegians invited to Valley Ranch for pre-draft visits and who the Cowboys end up drafting, it's important to know as much as possible about these players. As a service to you BTB is providing a series of detailed scouting reports on each of these targets. Today the series continues with our look at Northern Illinois safety, Jimmie Ward.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Name: Jimmie Ward

Position: Defensive Back

School: Northern Illinois

Height: 5’11"

Weight: 193 LBs

Games Studied: Toledo, Western Michigan, Utah State, Florida State (2012)

Measurables vs others at his position:

Note: This spider graph provides a visual representation of a players’ measurable traits, and combine results.  The filled in area of the chart, as well as the number in the light grey circle represents the percentile among the player's peers by position. A score of 85 here represents that out of every 100 players at his position, the player has a better result in that test than 85 of those 100.

Pass Game:

Jimmie Ward lined up all over the field for the Northern Illinois Huskies, and made a ton of plays.  Whether he was covering a slot receiver in press or off man, playing the deep middle in Cover 1 or Cover 3, or lining up outside over the opponents #1 WR he was counted on heavily in the NIU defense, and he did not disappoint.

As a man coverage player he has the feet of a quality CB while still having the physicality to cover TE’s or running backs out of the back field. He rarely allows completions to his man, and has fluid hips to turn and run. The one area that he will need to improve at the NFL level is his tendency to take chances with his eyes, and get grabby downfield  to make up for it, which he could get away with in college, but will draw flags at the NFL level. The strength of NFL receivers could allow them to separate from him due to the eye discipline problems in spite of the grabs.

When he’s playing zone you see the aware, veteran player that he is. In the Poinsettia Bowl against Utah State, the Aggies had the ball in the redzone looking to score in what was a close game. Ward was aligned over the slot, and dropped knowing he had safety help inside, as the WR ran a seam or bang-8 type route against him, he was able to take the chance, and run under the route for the interception, (one of 11 in his career and 7 in 2013) keeping points off the board in a big situation.

From the deep middle as a safety, you see his range, instincts, and physicality. He routinely delivers blows to WRs and TE’s that dislodge the ball, and gets his hands on even more passes. Even when he’s covering a big bodied TE that tries to box him out he’s able to get in position to knock the ball away.

As a blitzer from the slot he shows quickness and some instinct, making a hit on the QB in the bowl game against Florida State in 2012.

Run Game:

Ward played often as a strong safety at NIU that aligned in the box and played as a part of the run front.  He understands his fit here and is a good enough tackler to wrap up and corral the runner, although he doesn’t deliver the kind of impact blows in the run game that he does in coverage. He tends to lower his head and attack the legs of the back with the ball, which is fine, but there are times when he fails to wrap his arms and guys can run through the hit.

Coming from the deep middle he plays his role, and doesn’t over pursue, making several tackles in games I watched on cut back runs that could have sprung for big runs. As the last line of defense he does a good job tackling and preventing the huge play, although Florida State was able to rattle off several very big runs on plays when he was in the box.

The run game is where his limited upper body strength shows, as he is able to move and avoid cut blocks, but if a blocker gets into him and can hold on, he has major trouble getting loose.

Conclusion/Cowboys Projection:

For this Dallas defense, Jimmie Ward would be an immediate upgrade at FS, playing the deep middle in Cover 1 and Cover 3, and playing man-to-man on inside WRs and TEs in Cover 0 looks. His range, feet, and ball skills would make him a day one starter that would improve the back-end of the defense dramatically. Ideally I’d like to see a little more pop from him coming down in the run game, but he shows the willingness and ability to knock WRs around when he needs to.  I believe he will be picked at the back end of the first round. Likely somewhere in the 20s.

Pro Comparison: Glover Quin, FS, Detroit Lions (2009 4th rd pick)

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