Denzel Ward, CB
School: Ohio State | Conference: BIG 10
College Experience: Junior | Age: 20
Height / Weight: 5-11 / 183 lbs
Projected Draft Status: 1st Round
NFL Comparison: Robert Alford
Denzel Ward was a 3-star prospect from Macedonia, Ohio. In high school, Ward played both cornerback and wide receiver and while he was considering other offers from potential suitors all it took was an official visit to Columbus for head coach Urban Meyer to get him to commit to the program. Ward played behind three first-round picks in Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, and Marshon Lattimore. Ward will be number four pending any surprising circumstances. He earned first-team All-American honors this past year. Ward may lack the preferred prototypical height and length teams want at the position but he more than makes up for with his passion for the game, competitive attitude, elite athletic ability, and technique. Ward has tremendous instincts and recognition ability and should be able to match up with just about any receiver on the field. His critics will point to his lack of size, physicality on routes, and the talented front seven of the Ohio State defensive line but Ward’s technical proficiency can’t really be overstated based upon what he’s put on film. He should be a day one starter at nickel CB with potential to quickly be one of the best in the league with added flexibility to play outside if a team needs him there.
- Elite athleticism and speed for the position with size tailor-made for covering the slot - technique and competitive nature will allow him to play outside as well.
- Completely unafraid and filled with confidence in coverage. Fluid player with no issues changing directions or making adjustments on the run. Mirror ability is outstanding and he can run routes for the receiver. Footwork and short area movement overall are impressive. He plays with a blend of finesse and some physicality and is able to disrupt passes at the catch point.
- Strategic player who understands how to best position himself in coverage and make adjustments. When playing outside he takes away inside leverage and its just him his opponent and the sideline. When playing inside he takes away inside leverage and keeps things in front of him. Recognizes routes and reads QBs eyes to get a jump on things.
- Willing and effective tackler in run support and in coverage.
- Has lockdown potential with QBs almost always looking to avoid his side of the field in college.
- Lacks ideal size, length, and strength for an outside corner.
- Great production defending passes and decent interception total but could have had even more - ball skills aren't the best in the class - may be a hand size thing?
- Very sticky in coverage but doesn't always find the ball when it's in the air. He’s allowed a few catches and penalties because he doesn't turn his head.
- Would like to see him play a bit more physically at the LOS and through the route, more physical WRs have had some success against him.
Let's see his work:
Still can't believe they called this hit by Denzel Ward targeting. This hit is insane, and it was completely clean. pic.twitter.com/rEIATUyafi— Magnus Bendixen (@BendixenNFL) April 19, 2018
Denzel Ward is so fluid. Flips his hips just in time for the INT pic.twitter.com/GeqzkKrRQR— Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) December 3, 2017
How He Would Fit On The Redskins
Denzel Ward would be the day 1 starter at nickel CB if he were selected by the Redskins. I imagine Josh Norman and Fabian Moreau would remain outside with Dunbar, Holsey, and Scandrick serving as depth. I think I have already touched on the need for 3 starting caliber corners and safeties with the NFL increasing its usage of 11-personnel each year for the past 5 years or so also considering defenses lining up in nickel defenses and it's sub packages to match the offense. With each year that passes the nickel CB role and boundary corner grow closer in terms of importance and usage with the majority of offenses lining up with 3 receivers on the field over 60% of the time. ~60% of snaps may not be enough to convince some fans that the team ought to spend a first-round pick on him. Never fear, if moving on from Josh Norman is in the Redskins plans in the next couple of years Ward could very well make the transition outside. In the meantime, I would advise any skeptics to no worry if Ward starts off on the inside and instead take in all the valuable talent and skills he brings to the unit which with his addition and Moreau’s success could be one of the best groups in the league. The Redskins have plenty of division threats in the slot including Nelson Agholor, Cole Beasley, and Sterling Shepard. I would have a lot of confidence in Ward being able to defend every single one of them or any receiver he may be matched up against.