When the San Francisco 49ers drafted first-round pick (No. 30) DB Jimmy Ward it was definitely a head scratcher at first. A player that played safety at Northern Illinois, the selection of Ward didn’t make much sense considering the 49ers already had FS Eric Reid and SS Antoine Bethea as the entrenched starters heading into the 2014 season.
However, rest assured GM Trent Baalke had a plan as they drafted Ward to be the primary nickel cornerback in the slot. A role that Ward excelled in college as he routinely lined up in the slot to take away the faster and shiftier wide receivers, Ward will be asked to do the same as he replaces veteran CB Carlos Rogers. But with Ward having every opportunity to win the nickel role, do not be surprised if he starts off as a special-teams ace.
Ward ran a 4.48 second 40-yard dash on a bad foot at his Pro Day. Just think how fast he would’ve ran had he been 100 percent healthy. In addition, Ward has the athleticism and agility to get downfield in a hurry evident by his explosive 38-inch vertical and 125-inch broad jump. A true athlete that can blow passed coverage units, look for Ward to get a strong look on special-teams in training camp.
A player that can be counted on as Ward is very football savvy when it comes to tackling, look for Ward to make a name for himself as he surely has the smarts to comprehend when to lay a vicious hit or make the sure tackle.
With Ward seemingly out until training camp, I would expect the 49ers to slowly acclimate him into the defensive game-plan while also getting his feet wet on special teams. Remember, last year’s first-round pick Reid was seen playing special teams against the Green Bay Packers in Week 1 so it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to have an encore performance with Ward. We will just have to wait and see how everything plays out.