- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Redskins addressed safety in the offseason. But they also haven’t solved the position for anything more than the short term. Which is why drafting one with their first pick in the second round remains possible.
There’s one player who stands out here in the eyes of ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay: Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward. The top two safeties, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor will be long gone before this pick. McShay said safety Deone Bucannon, projects to a mid-second-round pick, making Ward a better value for Washington.
The 5-foot-11, 193-pound Ward starred for Northern Illinois, intercepting seven passes this past season. He didn’t work out at the scouting combine earlier this offseason because of a foot injury. He played strong safety in college, but analysts have raved about his versatility, in part because of his speed (4.47 in the 40-yard dash at the combine). The Redskins need their safeties to be versatile; the free safety could suddenly have strong safety responsibilities based on an offensive formation or a player going in motion.
“[Ward] has the coverage skills in both zone and man,” McShay said in a conference call with NFL Nation reporters. “But for a smaller safety he’s physical against the run. He’s a ball hawk. He’s a really good player. Not ideal size, but he plays bigger than his size and outside this freak injury he’s dealing with now, he was able to play every game. He’s a good value in the early to mid-second round.”
As for Bucannon, McShay said, “He’s a more physical in-the-box-safety. But he can be a versatile guy and play both spots and cover at least the deep half if not deep third in zone coverage.”