Height: 5′ 11″
Cornerback Denzel Ward was the first Buckeye to hear his name called at Thursday’s NFL Draft. Surprisingly, it was the Cleveland Browns who selected him with the fourth overall pick.
Ward played three seasons at Ohio State. He earned honorable mention all-Big Ten honors in 2016 before turning into one of the nation’s best players last fall.
He was named a first-team all-American in 2017 during a dominant year.
Ward broke up 15 passes and intercepted two others. His total of 17 passes defensed was the fourth-highest in Ohio State history.
He was also an impact player on special teams, blocking a crucial punt during the comeback win over Penn State.
Ward opted to sit out the Cotton Bowl win over Southern California to stay healthy and preserve his draft stock.
That stock rose even further after Ward ran a blazing 4.32 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine back in March.
Ward is the fourth Buckeye cornerback selected in the first round of the draft in the last three years.
Eli Apple went No. 10 overall to the New York Giants in 2016. The New Orleans Saints picked Marshon Lattimore 11th in 2017, and Gareon Conley went at No. 24 the same year.
Projecting Ward As A Pro
Inside The Pylon broke down Ward and hundreds of other prospects from a statistical and film-based perspective. What you see below is just a small portion of Ward’s player profile. You can get the rest by buying their incredible 431-page Draft Guide.
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.
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.
You can get an extended profile of Denzel Ward’s NFL projection here.
Release from Ohio State
CB Denzel Ward Selected in 1st Round of NFL Draft
True junior goes No. 4 overall to Cleveland; Ohio State sets draft records for DBs selected
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State junior cornerback Denzel Ward, from Macedonia, Ohio and Nordonia High School, was chosen in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft with the fourth overall pick by the Cleveland Browns. The draft is being held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and it will continue with Rounds 2-3 Friday and Rounds 4-7 on Saturday.
The selection of Ward gives Ohio State five cornerbacks taken in the first round of the NFL Draft in five years, a first in the history of the NFL Draft. His selection also positions Ohio State with these additional draft records/near records/accolades:
- Ward is the fifth Ohio State defensive back chosen in the first round over the last three NFL Drafts, an all-time draft record for DBs taken over three years;
- He is the fourth Ohio State cornerback taken in the first round the last three years, an NFL all-time best;
- He is the sixth Buckeye defensive back taken in the first round in the last five years, tying Miami’s NFL record-run of six defensive backs in five years between 2002-06; and
- He extends a string of first-round cornerbacks from Ohio State to three consecutive years, which Ohio State did previously from 1999 through 2001, and which has only been done once before: by Texas A&M from 1992 to1994.
Ohio State’s 1st-Round Defensive Backs – 2014-18
Year Pick Pos. Player – Team
2018 No. 4 CB Denzel Ward – Cleveland Browns
2017 No. 11 CB Marshon Lattimore – New Orleans Saints
2017 No. 15 SAF Malik Hooker – Indianapolis Colts
2017 No. 24 CB Gareon Conley – Oakland Raiders
2016 No. 10 CB Eli Apple – New York Giants
2014 No. 31 CB Bradley Roby – Denver Broncos
Ward, 5-11 and 197 pounds as a Buckeye, also gives Ohio State the distinction of having the first cornerback taken in the draft in back-back years and for the fifth time in draft history, also an NFL Draft record.
Buckeyes Taken as No. 1 Cornerback in the Draft
2018 Denzel Ward, No. 4 overall by the Cleveland Browns
2017 Marshon Lattimore, No. 11 overall by the New Orleans Saints
2009 Malcolm Jenkins, No. 14 overall by the New Orleans Saints
2001 Nate Clements, No. 21 overall by the Buffalo Bills
1997 Shawn Springs, No. 3 overall by the Seattle Seahawks
Denzel Ward at Ohio State
Ward played three seasons with the Buckeyes before electing to forego his senior season to make himself available for the draft. This after he had an outstanding junior season in 2017, earning consensus All-America honors and first-team all-Big Ten accolades after recording 17 passes defensed with 15 pass break-ups and two interceptions, including one interception in the Big Ten championship game win over Wisconsin. The 17 passes defensed is the fourth-highest single season total in school history.
Ward had five pass break-ups, and six passes defensed, in the season opener against Indiana and he made one of the biggest plays of the year in the 39-38 win over Penn State: blocking a fourth-quarter punt with the Buckeyes down by 15. The play led to a touchdown and the start of a remarkable, 18-point comeback win for Ohio State over the No. 2 team in the nation. Ward’s season also included 37 total tackles in his 13 starts.
For his career, Ward played in 38 games and had 57 tackles and 26 passes defended, including two interceptions. He is majoring in sport industry.