CB Denzel Ward, Ohio St.*

5’11” – 183 lbs. – 4.32

Played in twelve games as a true freshman, almost all of them on special teams, then appeared on sub packages the following season behind eventual first-round picks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley before spending this past season as a starter. Compact, well-built cornerback who played both outside and inside for the Buckeyes, most frequently the former; confirming his official height at the Combine will be important, as it is on the fringe of what teams look for on the boundary. Very feisty defensive back who plays a lot of man coverage, typically press or bail, but will also work in zones on a handful of snaps per game. Plays with good balance and footwork at the line to match opposing releases. Pretty physical player who does a good job of placing his hands on opposing receivers and sticking with them through their routes. Was asked to match up against bigger receivers and held his own. Gives up little separation at the stem, especially on outside routes, and has the speed to carry opposing receivers down the sidelines on vertical patterns. Has good instincts in zone coverage, with the ability to diagnose route combinations and break off of his initial man to defend underneath throws. Was rarely tested in coverage during the games reviewed but managed to break up twenty-four passes and intercept two over the past two seasons. Likes to come up and support the run; pretty feisty in terms of his willingness to take on blockers, and gets involved in making hits on opposing ballcarriers. Has some violence in his hands to shed blocks and free himself up to make tackles. Can be more of a hitter than a tackler; will forget his form at times, leading to missed tackles. Doesn’t always do the best job of maintaining outside position in the run game and funneling opposing ballcarriers back inside. Can get too physical down the field at times and will have to tone it down a little bit to avoid being penalized at the next level. A prospect who combines a physical on-field temperament with excellent speed and quickness, and whose feel for the game is very good for a first-year starter. Considered one of the top corners in the class and stands a solid chance of coming off the board on the first day, but may need to confirm height  to solidify his status.

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