s a part of our coverage here at Russell Street Report, we’ll be featuring the best prospects all across the board in any situation the Ravens might come across. Whether it’s a receiver in the first round, a quarterback in the sixth, or a guard in the third, we’ll cover the Ravens best options in any scenario. Barring any trades, the team will pick in the middle of each round—so we’ll see who is available when the Ravens are projected to select their upcoming stars. This will make it easy for you the fan to look at what the Ravens are seeing in future NFL prospects.
When the Ravens drafted Matt Elam with last year’s 32nd overall pick, the skeptics were out in full force. Many thought that a safety wouldn’t help the team win, and that addressing the safety spot wasn’t the right move.
Elam played well in 2013 next to James Ihedigbo. The two managed their way through some growing pains, in the end helping the defense have an exceptional season. The young former Florida Gator still has some learning to do, but that will come naturally with more experience.
A new offseason brings a similar challenge. With Ihedgibo presumably set to walk as a free agent, the Ravens defense will likely look to the Draft to fill a need that Ozzie Newsome talked about in the “State of the Ravens”—free safety.
Jimmie Ward from small-school Northern Illinois might just be the solution.
If there’s a guy at this position I’d want to see put on the black and purple, it’s Ward. Much like Elam when he came out of Florida in 2013, the 22-year old Ward shows promise of bringing passion and leadership to a defense.
Ward’s stock rose incredibly in his Senior season. He (along with the MAC conference as a whole) gained great exposure in games televised on ESPN—a partnership that I have loved since it began. Scouts will always find a player if he has talent, but somebody like Ward was able to have his talents widely noticed with NIU’s games being nationally televised.
The way Ward plays football is special. You have to play with your hair on fire if you want to be successful in the NFL, and this kid can do that when he wants to. He played both safety spots in college, but he will be best suited in a free safety spot at the next level. Ward has great range, fluid transition skills, and improving coverage abilities.
He can tackle in the run game and keep his eyes downfield, anticipating the play ahead and becoming a strong force in run defense.
CBS Sports has Ward graded as a 2nd round pick. Here’s what they had to say about the MAC’s leading defensive back:
What separates Ward from other undersized prospects is his versatile skill set and training to play any position in the defensive backfield. His versatility should be highly appealing to NFL teams and may even draw higher grades for Ward than expected.
If Ward is available when the Ravens are on the clock in the second round, they may look to grab him. Teams ahead of the Ravens, most notably the Steelers, might take a look at Ward. A trade up might be necessary if Ozzie has Ward in his sights.
WalterFootball.com actually has the Cowboys selecting Ward one spot ahead of the Ravens in his latest Round 2 mock, saying, “Dallas had horrible safety play all year. An upgrade in this area would have allowed it to beat Philadelphia in Week 17.”
The third and fourth rounds are better stocked if the Ravens want to grab a safety. The second is a very weak spot for safeties, with Ward as the only guy worth grabbing as high as a pick in the forties.