5’10, 191 pounds
Projection: Round one
(Rank among position in parentheses)
40 Yard Dash: 4.32 (T-1st)
Bench Press: 16 (T-8th)
Ward is lightning quick, and an elite athlete. He has NFL, 4.32 burner speed and can stick stride for stride with any receiver in the nation. His hips are fluid and his feet are fast. Ward swiftly backs up from his stance to mirror his receiver. He is excellent in man coverage and is one of the best mirror corners in the nation. Ward plays the ball aggressively, and constantly makes plays on passes. He is adept at knocking the ball out at the last second. Because of his smaller stature, quarterbacks foolishly throw above him expecting an easy catch, but Ward often leaps up to the point of attack to make a play on the ball. He smoothly gets his hips around and turns the ball to make interceptions. He is very patient in his movements and reads the quarterback well. Ward, despite his size, is an aggressive and efficient tackler.
Ward’s size will hurt him on the next level against bigger, stronger receivers. When the pass is perfectly on target, Ward had more than a few plays where he nearly missed the ball. Against tall athletic receivers, he will lose plenty of jump balls. Ward loves to press, but will often get beat by good receivers. He is aggressive on his jam, and when he is beat, he tends to get handsy and grabby. Ward won’t get away with being grabby on the next level. He will get manhandled by bigger blockers in run support.
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Outside of Rashaan Melvin, the Colts are thin at cornerback. Quincy Wilson, Nate Hairston, and Pierre Desir are all potential players, not established talents. With Rashaan Melvin potentially leaving in free agency, Ward could slot in at that number one corner spot. He may be a bit short for the outside corner position, but guys of similar stature like Chris Harris Jr. are proof that Ward on the outside can work. Trading back and drafting Ward could alleviate the need to pay Melvin more than Ballard believes he is worth.
Denzel Ward is going to struggle early as an outside, bump and run cornerback. With a bit of work, he could easily succeed on the outside. Even if he cannot, Ward will excel in the slot, where he can use his blazing speed to his most advantage. In this year’s pass-happy NFL, it is just as hard, maybe harder, to find a shut-down nickel corner than to find a shut-down outside corner. With the right coach and the right scheme, Ward has the chance to be an early All-Pro on the next level.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_ and @FPC_Colts.