- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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With one day until the NFL draft begins, here is another potential draft prospect for the Baltimore Ravens:
School: Northern Illinois
Height/weight: 5-foot-10, 193 pounds
Round projection: Second round
File this away: Ward blocked four punts in his career. Does that remind you of any other Ravens safety?
Good: Ward is considered one of the top four safeties in this draft class and the second-best coverage one behind Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Active and aggressive, he's a ball magnet. He's been called a poor man's Earl Thomas and has some Ed Reed-like qualities. Ward has 11 career interceptions and is dangerous with the ball in his hands. He was arguably the best pass defender at the Senior Bowl, which should ease concerns about the competition he played against in college.
Bad: Ward lacks ideal size for the position. If he was a couple inches taller, he would be a lock for the first round. His strength is a question mark, too. He bench-pressed 225 pounds just nine times at the combine, second fewest among defensive backs. Ward has average awareness, which hurts his recognition in zone coverage. He had screws inserted in his foot in early March, but he has been cleared to run and should be ready for training camp. There have been some issues about his maturity.
Bottom line: If Clinton-Dix is gone in the first round, Ward is a strong candidate for the Ravens in the second round. He is exactly the type of athletic and rangy safety that the Ravens have been targeting this offseason. Ward would be a great complement to Matt Elam. There are no guarantees that Ward will be there at the No. 48 overall pick in the second round. Some believe he could sneak into the bottom of the first round. Ward was among the Ravens' pre-draft visitors.
What Ward said: "I don’t miss very many tackles. I emphasize that. I don’t like missing tackles. When you’re missing tackles in the secondary, it could be a touchdown.’’