What draft experts said about new Vikings safety Jay Ward
With their first selection on day three of the NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings selected LSU safety Jay Ward at No. 119.
With this pick, the Vikings addressed a pressing need in their lineup. If you’re curious to learn more about Ward and his potential impact, read on for insights from some of the most respected draft analysts out there.
Lance Zierlein NFL.com Analyst
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Versatile defensive back with a fearless playing mentality. Ward has good size and length for a nickel cornerback, but he lacks a little thickness as a safety who likes to hit. He can be counted on to do his job in run support from the slot and has adequate coverage talent from off-man and zone. He will make plays when he’s in position to do so but doesn’t have the route anticipation needed for strong on-ball production just yet. Ward takes good angles to the football in coverage and run support as a safety. His versatility improves his chances of becoming an NFL starter in the future.
Keith Sanchez of The Draft Network
Although Ward is a former cornerback, against the run from the safety position he has a physical presence in that he makes full-speed collisions with ball carriers. Ward does a good job of closing from distance to make plays at or near the line scrimmage. Ward also does a good job of disputing quick plays like screens by quickly shedding blockers and getting to the ball carrier. Ward plays with a physical presence that outweighs his actual size and body profile.
In pass coverage, Ward shows to be an instinctive payer in zone. He has multiple interceptions where he did a good job of reading the quarterback’s eyes to the receiver and made the interception. Ward has good range roaming the deeper portions of the field and is a player that can play as the deep FS. In man-to-man situations, Ward does a good job of being technically sound and closing to receivers to make the tackle or deflect the pass.
The concerns for Ward come from his slight frame and his ability to stay healthy playing the safety position. Ward is a former corner and his frame is leaner than a traditional safety. On those full-speed collisions, Ward ends up absorbing more of the blow. Throughout his career, Ward has had injuries directly related to high-impact collisions. Ward is a physical player that doesn’t necessarily have the frame to support his style. To help sustain his career and remain healthy, Ward could benefit from changing his tackling technique to be less violent.
Brett Yaris of Pro Football Network
Mandatory Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports
Tough run-defending safety who works to make positive plays. Flashes ability over the slot receiver quickly transitions off the line and tracks the pass in the air. Displays a nice move to the throw and effectively times pass defenses. Displays solid range in center field, stays with assignments, and keeps the action in front of him. Gives effort against the run, squares into ball handlers, and wraps up tackling.
Ward is a hard-working safety who gets the most from his ability and is very effective facing the action. He’s a tough run defender with solid ball skills who can be a fourth safety on Sundays.
Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Long, lanky frame. Primarily plays in the high post, responsible for patrolling the middle of the field. Makes sense when you see his open-field speed and the way it parlays into easy range. Like his aggressiveness. Plays like he doesn’t know or doesn’t care about his size. Will trigger quickly against the run and size up ball carriers. Undercuts in breakers with acceleration and anticipation. Fluid hips and short area quicks that enable him to man up tight ends. Highly competitive and wants to leave his mark on every rep. Seldom actually squares up to fundamentally tackle. Want to see him get on vertical routes quicker. Know he has the speed but lacks the recognition needed to combat vertical patterns out of 3×1 sets. Eye discipline and route stems can leave him distraught, allowing big plays over the top. Not a ton of ball production. Ward has the range and cover ability you want out of a post safety. His issues arise in tackling where his wiry frame may forbid him from being a force. Answering any questions here while maintaining his fiery nature will suit him well.
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