2020 Raiders Draft Prospect Profile
Name: Jonathan Ward
Position: Running Back
School: Central Michigan University
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 202 pounds
With adequate pad level and balance, Ward gobbles up yards at a good clip. Strong enough to withstand some initial contact, nimbleness is the hallmark of his game. Ward displays a knack for creating space, even the tiniest crevice. More importantly, his base helps him remain upright, heading downfield.
Ward gains the corner with a complete burst. Yet, he still shows enough acceleration to break off long runs. At the next level, he will need to start his move upfield, just a tick sooner. Instead of waiting for the lane, use the burst to open a seam.
Very few backs possess the receiving portfolio in this draft like Ward. With a sure grab, he plucks the ball in the air, transfers and makes a beeline for green. The Chips used him extensively in the passing game. 98 catches and just short of a thousand yards, Ward provided the offense with a dump option, while simultaneously winning on intermediate and deeper routes than most backs.
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When Ward lines up a defender in the open field, he attacks with a wide array of moves. First, his arsenal of cuts varies from the slight to the wider. Either wide, he gains extra yards by causing would-be tackles to whiff. Plus, he will uncork if the defenders look like he’s cheating to one side. As a result, he rolls right off the arm tackle.
Behind Josh Jacobs, the Raiders employ serviceable backs. Each brings functionality to the team. However, each lacks the ability to break big plays. Save for the 75-yard TD during the opening game against the Saints four years ago, what have you seen that lends itself to a longer tenure? Granted, Jalen Richard knows the offense. Yet, he does not seem like an explosive backup, capable of taking the ball the distance on every snap. Within his game, a cap exists, a finite point where he’s as good as he’ll ever be. When the Raiders move into their palatial stadium, the fans, coaches, and administration expect gamebreakers all over the field.
Right now, Ward presents a much higher ceiling than either Richard and Washington. He’s a better natural receiver than Richard and more elusive than Washington. While they possess more NFL experience and Jon Gruden prizes that quality, he also wants his Charlie Garner-type and a big back. Ward’s ability in the passing game would add a new dimension to the Raiders. Vegas needs athletic playmakers that scare defenses, especially in the backfield. Josh Jacobs is the undisputed leader of the unit. yet, the team must add another aspect of dynamic talent behind him. Imagine the ability to send Ward on a skinny post versus a linebacker. Automatic mismatch. Ward wins that contest more often than not. Additionally, Ward would give the Raiders incredible value on Day Three.