Did the 49ers strike out on selecting Jimmie Ward?

Bay Area News Group/Dai Sugano

Bay Area News Group/Dai Sugano

I’ll be quite honest, shocked was my initial reaction when I heard Matt Maiocco behind me yell, “Whoa, Jimmie Ward,” as the 49ers first-round pick. I said, “Are you kidding?” I then directed my attention to the television screen and apparently the 49ers insider was not and neither were the 49ers. Projected to go in the mid-to-late second-round, Ward somehow made his way to a gold helmet next to his name. A small school kid from Northern Illinois University, the question remains was Ward worth the pick? After interacting with both 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke just moments after the pick was made, I believe in the end it was justifiable.



For starters, many Forever Faithful and 49ers insiders including myself believed they would go wide receiver in the first-round. A deep wide receiver draft class that saw WR Marqise Lee (USC) and WR Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt) still on the board, one has to wonder why Ward? Baalke elaborated on his selection as he said:

NinerFans.com

NinerFans.com

The value was there? Baalke was so high on Ward that he said, “Don’t mistake the size for lack of toughness. The stage isn’t going to be too big for him.” But where does he fit? The 49ers already have two starting safeties in Pro Bowl FS Eric Reid and SS Antoine Bethea so where does Ward fit in? That was my initial thought when the 49ers drafted him, but rest assured the 49ers had a plan as they will play him at the nickel cornerback role. That’s right nickel as Harbaugh said, “He’s going to play safety with corner skills. He’s got a knack for making the appropriate tackle.”

In addition, Ward fills the 49ers biggest need at the nickel defensive back position. Sure, the 49ers need a wide receiver, but this draft class is deep and with Lee, Matthews, WR Davante Adams, WR Martavis Bryant, WR Jarvis Landry, and WR Allen Robinson still on the board, the 49ers have the ammo to target one of those players on day two, as they hold five of the top 100 picks in the second and third rounds. So with Ward adding depth at the safety position while providing help in run support under DC Vic Fangio’s 3-4 cover-2 scheme, how much will he play? Considering the 49ers play nickel more often than not, Ward will be playing a significant amount as Baalke said:

A vicious hitter with the football saavy to match, this pick makes more sense to me after hearing Baalke and Harbaugh’s post first-round draft presser. A player that has a passion for the game while maximizing his opportunities with a stellar senior season as he recorded 95 tackles, 10 pass break-ups and seven interceptions (2nd most in the country) it’s clear to me this pick wasn’t so bad after all. It may not be the sexy pick like selecting a wide receiver but it may have been the right one, as the 49ers believed they drafted the best player available. 

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of NinerFans.com, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at ryan@NinerFans.com or call him at (408) 622-0996.

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