With the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns picked cornerbacker Denzel Ward out of Ohio State. One of only three Buckeyes to declare for the draft early, Ward also chose to sit out of the team’s Cotton Bowl game in an effort to avoid potential injuries and begin his draft-prep right away. Long considered the top CB in this year’s draft class, Ward stood out at the combine and in his pro day workouts.
So, why should you be excited the Browns drafted Ward? We’ve got you covered:
1. They call him “Flash” Ward
Not only did the CB run a 4.32, 40-yard dash at this year’s NFL Combine, but he finished in a three-way tie for the No. 1 run among all position groups -- over 200 players. Ward also left Indy as a top performer in the vertical and broad jumps, further boosting his athleticism claim to teams.
2. He’s great at getting a hand on the ball
During his three-year career at Ohio State, Ward collected 24 career pass breakups, with his 15 defended passes in 2017 good enough to finish No. 3 in the Big Ten, and No. 8 nationally. He may have only two collegiate interceptions to his name — both last season—, but the potential for more is definitely there with his penchant for finding his way to the ball and making a play.
3. Another Kerry Coombs-product
A lot of stuff you read about Ward is going to mention the incredible lineage of defensive backs out of Ohio State under former secondary coach Kerry Coombs. The ever-energized assistant decided to join the NFL coaching ranks this offseason — joining Buckeye Mike Vrabel with the Tennessee Titans — and Ward is his last Buckeye draft pick.
The feat is cool for Coombs, but his history of success should be exciting for fans welcoming Ward to their roster. Ward played alongside 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore, and behind players like Gareon Conley and Eli Apple before him. He should have no problem following in their footsteps and making a name for himself his rookie season.
4. He doesn’t hesitate to make a big hit
He’s proven time and time again that he isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder for the boom against a charging opponent, but he really went above and beyond with a crushing hit against Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews — a 6-foot-5, 254-pound tight end.
Denzel Ward - 5-11 180— Luke Vittori (@__Neutralizer) January 15, 2018
Mark Andrews - 6-5 254 pic.twitter.com/F9lUPQ1VWM
5. Also, this is nice:
Denzel Ward did not allow a single reception in 7 different games last season pic.twitter.com/lu0Wplzbir— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 20, 2018
Any concerns about Ward?
Despite being atop the rankings in passes defended, there is one particularly important aspect of his game that could use some work: defending in the red zone. He doesn’t have the best track record defending jump balls in the endzone, but he showed off a 39-inch vertical jump at the combine, and hopefully will put those issues behind him.
Being a liability in a game-winning Hail Mary situation — especially in a league where Aaron Rodgers still plays QB —, will not bode well for a long NFL career. If Ward can tighten up his performance in the redzone, he should be a complete CB his rookie season.
How will Ward contribute his rookie season?
This poll is closed
Lead the team in PBUs.
Follows in Lattimore’s footsteps as DRotY.
Sees some playing time, but doesn’t start.
Spends the year developing... on the bench.