Jimmie Ward may have been the least talked about first-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft. The San Francisco 49ers selected Ward 30th overall and will look to fill the void in the defensive backfield. Ward isn’t a household name, because he played in the Mid American Conference. Ward didn’t come from a traditional football powerhouse, but his play on the field speaks otherwise. Sometimes flying under the radar is a good thing, and in this case I feel it will benefit Ward.
Ward was a third team All-American performer at Northern Illinois and lined up at various positions in the defensive backfield. Ward was often seen in the slot playing cornerback, and he did most of his damage at the safety position. During his tenure at Northern Illinois, Ward displayed great coverage abilities as well as a knack for making big plays.
San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will have ample time to figure out a way to insert Ward into an already potent defense. Ward’s versatility will be an asset to the defense, and it will get him on the field sooner rather than later. No matter where Ward is placed on the field, he will have a tough task on his hands. Whether it is in the slot covering Percy Harvin or Tavon Austin or coming down in the box meeting Marshawn Lynch head on, Ward will have to catch on fast.
Ward has the football savvy of a veteran after playing at UNI for four seasons, which is rare in this day in age. Even though the experiences are on a different level, he has a lot of football experience.
The 49ers have struck gold in the first round of the NFL Draft with their past two selections on the defensive side of the ball in Aldon Smith and Eric Reid, and Ward will look to follow suit. Many football fans may not know who Ward is now, but he will be garnering headlines soon enough.