The top prospect out of Ohio State this draft season is cornerback Denzel Ward. He’s been getting first-round mocks since late in the college season, and his decision to declare early for the NFL Draft was solidified when he chose to sit out of the Cotton Bowl — the only Buckeye to do so. One of only three Buckeyes to leave some college eligibility on the table, Ward was ready to prove that he should be the next graduate of #DBU with a Round 1 pick.
And that’s exactly what he did, earning the No. 4 overall pick on Thursday night. Ward will stay in the Buckeye state as a member of the Cleveland Browns.
With three years of game film under his belt, the cornerback finished his collegiate career notching 67 total tackles (47 solo), 24 pass breakups and two interceptions. He earned consensus All-America honors in 2017, thanks to a career-best season with 17 passes defended -- 15 PBUs and 2 INTs —, good for fourth-highest single season total in Buckeye history. Ward finished his Ohio State career having played in 38 games with 13 starts.
The fact that he didn’t often crack the starting lineup isn’t entirely surprising given the host of NFL talent that he was buried behind on the depth chart. Ohio State had three DBs drafted in the first round of last year’s draft (Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker, Gareon Conley) and six DBs in the past three drafts. Ward will look to continue that streak and make, now-former, secondary coach Kerry Coombs one of the most successful assistants ever.
Mike Mayock said former Ohio State CB Denzel Ward is a virtual lock to go in the top 10 in the NFL draft. Mayock has rated Ward as the top CB prospect in this class.— Garrett Stepien (@GarrettStepien) February 26, 2018
Here’s what the pros are saying in his NFL Combine Scouting Report:
STRENGTHS: Supreme athletic ability. Expected to be impressive Combine tester. 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.
WEAKNESSES: Frame is somewhat slight and he feels small in coverage at times. Lacks play strength to jam and disrupt. Appears to avoid route contact so he doesn’t upset coverage balance. Physical receivers can body him around at the top of the route. Needs to turn and find football sooner with back to the ball. Always around the throw, but lack of size and length shows up with “just misses” in pass defense. Several pass breakups came on throws with poor placement. Coverage benefitted from deep, talented rush unit up front. Has issues disengaging from big blocking receivers. Big backs drag him for a ride in run support.
- Height: 5-10 7/8”
- Weight: 183 lbs
- Hand size: 8 6/8”
- Arm length: 31 2/8”
- Wingspan: 74 6/8”
Bench press: 16 reps
40-yard dash: 4.32 sec
ANOTHER 4.32u!@MikeMayock's top-rated CB Denzel Ward (@Flash_Ward12) runs the 40-yard dash! @OhioStateFB #NFLCombine— NFL (@NFL) March 5, 2018
: @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/1xzQ7GeiHV
The NFL Network also compared Ward’s 40-run against two former Buckeyes, Bradley Roby and Marshon Lattimore. See who won that foot race below.
It’s an @OhioStateFB Simulcam and it’s @Flash_Ward12 with the edge over @shonrp2 and @BradRoby_1!— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 5, 2018
: #NFLCombine LIVE on NFL Network pic.twitter.com/ujlDEz7MvB
Vertical jump: 39.0”
Broad jump: 136.0”
Interview Notables and Quotables
Ward is projected to be the first Buckeye taken in the 2018 NFL Draft, and that pick could even be among the top 10. Largely regarded as the top cornerback in this year’s draft class, Ward only helped his case with his 40-yard dash time -- now everyone will know why they call his “Flash” Ward -- and combine performance.
Player Profiles and Combine Result Links
|Player||Position||Everything you need to know|
|Player||Position||Everything you need to know|
|J.T. Barrett||QB||Draft Profile|
|Marcus Baugh||TE||Draft Profile|
|Jerome Baker||LB||Draft Profile|
|Jalyn Holmes||DE||Draft Profile|
|Sam Hubbard||DE||Draft Profile|
|Jamarco Jones||OT||Draft Profile|
|Tyquan Lewis||DL||Draft Profile|
|Billy Price||C/G||Draft Profile|
|Denzel Ward||CB||Draft Profile|
|Damon Webb||SAF||Draft Profile|
|Chris Worley||LB||Draft Profile|