Coming off a season in which he was an All-American for Ohio State, cornerback Denzel Ward could be taken early in the 2018 NFL Draft.
While the Washington Redskins have already re-signed cornerback Quinton Dunbar to a multi-year extension this offseason, CBSSports.com’s Chris Trapasso thinks the team could add another player to the positon in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
In his most recent mock draft, Trapasso has Washington selecting Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward with the No. 13-overall pick.
“Ward isn't Marshon Lattimore, but he plays with a similar technically sound, pass-breakup style and is a reliable tackler,” Trapasso writes. “The Redskins like their starting corners, as they should. Bashaud Breeland is set to hit free agency, and Josh Norman is 30.”
In three seasons at Ohio State, Ward collected 57 tackles with 26 passes defensed and two interceptions.
During his junior season in 2017, Ward was named a consensus All-American selection has he collected 37 tackles with 17 passes defensed and two interceptions. According to his Ohio State bio, Ward’s 17 passes defensed was the fourth-highest single season total in school history.
In the Buckeyes’ season-opening victory over the Indiana Hoosiers, the 5-foot-10, 191 pounder collected six passes defensed along with four tackles.
In a rivalry victory over Michigan, Ward notched a career-high eight tackles.
As a sophomore in 2016, the Macedonia, Ohio, native was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection as he recorded 23 tackles with nine passes defensed. In seven of his 10 appearances, Ward recorded at least one pass defensed.
According to his NFL.com draft profile, Ward possesses “supreme athletic ability”
“Can park in a deep squat under wide receiver's chin at the line. Patient from press showing no panic or hurry in initial movements. Can pedal and mirror for a long time without opening hips. Tremendously gifted footwork. Mirrors and matches with good balance throughout the route. Matches changing route speed stride for stride. Plays from low side of route to take away comebacks. Uses big burst for recovery and closeouts. Carries true long speed down the field. Reads clues from off-man. Reads slants and drives in front of the route in search of an interception. Allowed just over 32 percent completions over last two years. Ballhawk with sudden hands to attack the throw. Bats throws down and will swirl arms around the catch point to prevent target from finishing the catch,” his profile states.
As for a potential pro comparison for Ward, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein believes he could turn out like Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr.
While Harris went undrafted in 2011, the 28-year-old has been selected to three Pro Bowls and was named a first-team All-Pro in 2016.
“Ward has the experience and talent to handle duties on the outside, but his lack of play strength combined with his elite footwork might be the deciding factor for a move inside,” Zierlein writes. “Ward is outstanding as a mirror-and-match cornerback with great route feel who is able to maintain tight coverage around the field with good technique and pattern recognition. He should become an early starter at nickel cornerback with the talent to make an immediate impact for a defense that faces a pass-happy division foe twice per year.”