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Denzel Ward, Cornerback | 2018 NFL Draft Profile
Ht: 5-10 7/8
Overall Rank: No. 4
Position Rank: No. 1 Cornerback
No cornerback in this draft mirrors a receiver’s cuts better in the short and intermediate parts of the field than Ward. He’s shorter than ideal and his run defense needs work, but he’ll contribute right away in a press or off-man scheme.
• Man Coverage
• Change of Direction (COD)
• Play Strength
• Against the Run
• Long Speed
One-Year Projection: Plays well from press alignment, which will entice teams to play him early, but his lack of overall play strength will probably limit him to being a team’s #2 cornerback where he won’t be called upon to have to try to jam a team’s X receiver regularly. His ability to contribute on special teams will also help him see the field early on.
Three-Year Projection: With an increase in play strength, Ward could be a low end #1 cornerback for a team. His ability to play tight coverage in Man defense, while also showing very good footwork when playing from a press alignment, can make him an asset to any defense, but his lack of overall height and his propensity for getting beat on deeper routes by speedier receivers will keep him from being a true shutdown cornerback at the next level.
An excellent athlete possessing very good quickness and acceleration as well as excellent change of direction and balance. Very good when playing from press alignment with his ability to match the release angles of the receiver and is comfortable in his back pedal without having to turn his hips too early while staying in phase. Is very good at being able to stay in phase with receivers through the break in their routes in the short and intermediate levels of the field, due to his very good play speed to diagnose the break, paired with his excellent ability to change direction with fluid hips and precise footwork.
Likes to use his hands appropriately while running with the receiver to try to disrupt their route running through the stem of the route. Does his best mirroring on inward breaking routes. Does a very good job while playing from off-man alignment, while reading the receiver’s release and first initial steps of the LOS before reacting appropriately to the route being run. If separation is created by the receiver, has good recovery skills to quickly get back in phase with the receiver.
When jamming at the LOS, does an adequate job at effectively disrupting the receivers release, but does a nice job of not allowing himself to get of balance and hinder his ability to mirror the receiver. Did have instances of being overzealous in trying to cut off an angled release by the receiver and gave away any leverage he lined up with pre-snap. Will get beat on a very good double move by the receiver and will grab at the receiver. Solid long speed overall and will give up a half step to a full step to quicker receivers in the deep area of the field.
Overall play strength is solid as shown through his lack of ability to effectively disrupt receivers physically with a jam at the LOS, as well as his lack of ability to consistently disengage from blocking receivers in the run game. Adequate against the run, lacking a consistent, aggressive nature to attack the runner unless a teammate has already slowed up the runner. Tackling in the open field against the run consists of him diving at the legs of runners, engaging with his head down, or trying to tackle high, leaving him unable to bring the runner down by himself.
With his ability to mirror at the LOS as well as remaining in phase well through the short and intermediate levels of the field, Ward can fit into a defense that utilizes a lot of Cover 1 and is willing to put their CBs in press alignment. Safety help over top will be necessary as he does give up a step on longer routes.
Overall 2018 NFL Grade: 8.49
9.00 Dominant Player. All-Pro Traits. Should develop into the best at his position
8.99-8.50 Consistent Pro Bowl Player. Gameplan changer. Very few flaws if any.
8.49-8.00 Will be very good player. Rookie Starter. Should have Pro Bowl physical traits.
7.99 Will be very good player. Probable Rookie Starter. May or may not have Pro Bowl physical traits.
7.75 Unique potential. Pro Bowl traits who needs critical technical development and consistency.
7.50-7.00 Can be a good starter you can win with. Should compete for a role/starting position. May be immediate contributor.
6.99-6.50 Functional starter in first 3 years who you should win with. No fatal flaws. Development needed.
6.49-6.00 Flash Starter Tools. Quality role player and/or Good ST. Emergency Starter
5.99-5.50 Quality role player and contributor for scheme specific teams.
5.49-5.00 Draftable player with intriguing physical tools or a functional role player to strengthen the 53.
4.99-4.50 Priority free agent. Has a couple tools that you want to work with.
4.49-4.00 Undrafted Free agent. Will go on the 90 man roster somewhere.
3.99-3.50 Invite to rookie mini camp. At least one intriguing quality to see live.
3.49-3.00 Off radar due to injury, size, position projection, etc. May be successful in CFL/AFL/etc.