With the No. 30 overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers took free safety Jimmie Ward out of Northern Illinois University. Ward is the No. 27 prospect on SB Nation's top 200 big board, making him the third safety in the class.
Ward is a bit undersized at 5'11 and 193 pounds, but makes up for some of that with excellent speed and good instincts. The former Huskies star played four years in college, contributing as a true freshman in 2010. Last season, following two campaigns of 100+ tackles, Ward had another 95 alongside seven interceptions.
David Fucillo of Niners Nation is a bit perplexed by the selection given other investments at safety:
This is certainly an interesting pick, and a little bit of a head-scratcher. The 49ers signed Antoine Bethea to pair with Eric Reid, but Ward would seem to be a potential long-term option at the safety. My guess is maybe they think he'll do some nickel work. He was a safety, but I'm reading that he was a decent man-to-man guy at times. I have to think that's the role we see.
The youngster did not work out at the combine because of an injured foot, but is scheduled to be ready for all activities when they begin this summer. Despite Ward's size, many within the scouting community believe Ward will not be a liability against the run.The biggest knock on Ward has been his maturity, something that doesn't go over well in NFL locker rooms with veterans.
In our scouting report of Ward, Matthew Fairburn writes about his ability to play in coverage:
If there were any questions about Ward's coverage ability, he answered them at the Senior Bowl, where he reportedly dominated in the one-on-one drills. He has fluid hips in coverage and a ton of short area quickness, making him tough to get separation against. Ward is the type of safety who can line up over a receiver in man coverage and he's physical enough to cover tight ends. The only thing holding him back is a slight lack of size that may make covering tight ends a challenge, but he's certainly willing to take on physical receivers.
Weight: 193 pounds
Bench press: 9 reps of 225 pounds