(Editor's Note: Heading into the upcoming NFL Draft, held May 8-10, DallasCowboys.com will take a closer look at the prospects, including some that could be potential fits with the Cowboys. Today's featured player is Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward).
College: Northern Illinois
Honors: Ward was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back, and was a first-team All-MAC safety from 2011-2013 who went on to turn heads at the Senior Bowl against top competition.
Key stat: Ward finished his final season at Northern Illinois with seven interceptions, including one in the bowl game against Utah State, and had at least 60 solo tackles each of his final two seasons.
Where He's Projected:Ward's strong showing at the Senior Bowl in his hometown of Mobile, Ala., put him on a lot more maps, if he wasn't there already. Most projections have him as a second-round pick, but he could end up toward the end of the first round. His smaller size at 5-11, 193, doesn't tell the whole story, and his film demonstrates just how much of a playmaker he can be. [embedded_ad]
How He Helps the Cowboys:A safety who appears to be everywhere on the field could certainly help out a team that's been in flux at the position. The safety spot opposite Barry Church is still up for grabs and should make for an intriguing camp competition. Given Church's ability to make plays near the line of scrimmage, Ward would be a capable fit as more of a centerfield-type safety to roam the back end, should the Cowboys choose to bring a new player into the mix. That's not to say Ward can't make plays near the line of scrimmage. He's demonstrated in college, where he totaled more than 300 tackles, he's not afraid to lower his shoulder, but the more intriguing aspect for the Cowboys has to be his playmaking ability through the air. He had seven picks and 10 passes defended last season and is capable of covering players in the slot. Ward's ability to read quickly could be just what the Cowboys are looking for.
Scout's Take: Bryan Broaddus –Really interesting player to study on tape. Might not have the ideal size and bulk that you would like in your safety, but gives you so much on the back end. Really respect his desire to want to be in the middle of the action. Can walk down in the box and handle his job there or can line up on the hash or the middle of the field to make that work too. Is not one of those safeties that you have to hide because they lack a certain skill or trait. Showed some really nice quickness once he saw the play develop. Can work himself through the traffic to make a play. Is more than willing to throw his body around but will have to be careful because there are times where he does take a poor angle and it puts him in a bad tackling position. Gave up a touchdown on a bad angle play against Purdue on a screen pass. Is more than willing to wrap up and make the play. Have seen him do this in the open field but tends to go low and to his credit, he can make this work. Despite that lack of bulk, he is more than willing to be physical. Really plays with the burst. You see this coming forward or working to the outside. Will come forward to take on the blockers off the edge. Will go low to chop down blockers to allow his teammates to make the tackle. Will fill the alley in a hurry once he reads the play. Got caught in the Iowa game being too aggressive on a hand back pass where the receiver ran by him. Showed the quickness and the smarts to recover to keep the play from scoring. Best trait as a safety is his ability to play in coverage. Was a converted corner that still plays with those skills. Can walk to the outside and cover wide or handle the job in the slot. Had two interceptions in games I viewed against Iowa and Purdue where he drove underneath a ball out of the slot to make the play. Did see a play in the Idaho game where he was in position down the field with a receiver but didn't get his head around quick enough to knock the ball away. Does a nice job of handling routes across the field. Can be a hard guy to run away from. Doesn't give receiver much room. Doesn't have the ideal height and weight to handle tight ends down the field but will still compete for the ball. See him as a 2nd round prospect that could be outstanding as a true free safety because of his cover skills and flexibility to line up anywhere in the defense. Has 4.47 speed but there are concerns about a foot that will need surgery to fix. Really good football player.