Washington Redskins: Calvin Pryor

Todd McShay high on Jimmie Ward

April, 28, 2014
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.”

Kiper says safety class not deep

February, 8, 2014
The Redskins have a big need at safety with no legitimate potential starters under contract for 2014. Both Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty are pending free agents.

Rookie Bacarri Rambo did not show that he should start again in his second season. Phillip Thomas might be fine at strong safety, but after missing his entire rookie season it's hard to know for sure.

Even if they re-sign Meriweather, he comes with a risk: His hits could land him a long suspension. And Doughty is better as a backup/special teamer.

The top-free agent safeties are Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward; both will be expensive. Miami's Chris Clemons probably won't cost as much, nor would a guy like Carolina's Mike Mitchell, coming off his best season.

But if they want another safety in the draft, then Northern Illinois' Jimmy Ward is worth a look. Kiper listed Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor as the top two safeties.

"Jimmy is an outstanding playmaker," ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "He's not a big safety, but he fits today's NFL with his coverage ability and he makes so many impact plays. He could go second or third round, but he's going to be a fast riser. I like him. [The safety class] is not tremendously deep. You could argue he's the third best safety."