PROS: Has good speed and shows burst when coming off the edge as a blitzer. Has the burst and ability to break up a pass over the middle. Likes to hit and throw his weight around. Active in run support and quick to come up and defend the run. Has adequate hips when working in man coverage.
CONS: Will take some poor angles to the ball. Not great when working in the box because he's undersized and can get stuck in traffic. Needs to do a better job wrapping up more consistently. Doesn't always break down and will miss some stops at the point of attack.
OVERVIEW: A former walk-on that led the team in tackles with 101 as a junior when he teamed with Patrick Chung. Also had 8 pass breakups. But production fell to 68 and 4 as a senior. A hard-hitting guy that has bulked up since the end of the year. Weighed 199 at the East-West Shrine game, and measured 211 at the Combine.
NFL FORECAST: Ward isn't quite as good as Chung, but I think might have the slight edge in his ability to impact in coverage. He has the ability and potential to improve in coverage, although he's more of a run-stopper at this point. He's bulked up, so his lack of size isn't a major concern anymore. He'll never be a ball-hawking type of free safety, but for a team that runs a lot of Cover-2, he should be more than capable. He could also work as a strong safety as well in a lot of schemes. At the very least, he should be a solid reserve. But I think he can be a capable starter in a similar mold as Jim Leonhard, who is another hard-working undersized safety that can hit and has good speed.
ATL FORECAST: Ward doesn't have the upside to really be expected to push either DeCoud or Moore for a starting job, but his sort of starting potential is probably on par with DeCoud. He's a harder hitter than DeCoud, and could develop similar range due to his speed and burst. More than likely however, Ward would be a good fit as a dual safety that can backup both positions. He could potentially push DeCoud in a few years and be a nice successor if the Falcons opted against given DeCoud a big second contract. But in terms of his potential, he's probably not ever going to be a better starter than DeCoud is right now.
VALUE: He's a solid third round pick that should go anywhere in that round.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
BALL SKILLS: 3.0
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.