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2018 NFL Draft prospect profile: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Could Ward be the next great DB to come out of OSU?

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Ohio State vs Wisconsin Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have a problem in their secondary.

After moving Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from corner to free safety, then releasing him outright when he wouldn’t agree to a pay cut, and allowing Ross Cockrell to leave via free agency, the Giants only have two proven options at corner, Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple. They added former Pittsburgh Steelers corner William Gay, but the 33-year old corner isn’t a long term answer.

The Giants need to find a third starter and round out the depth of a position which is always hit hard by attrition, and plays an important role in James Bettcher’s defense.

Ohio State has produced some of the best defensive backs to enter the NFL in recent years. Even the Giants’ own Eli Apple -- personal problems aside -- has flashed “lock down” potential with his size and speed. Once again the first cornerback drafted might just be a Denzel Ward, another Buckeye.



  • Impressive athlete. Fast, explosive, quick, and agile
  • Loose, fluid hips and remarkably quick feet.
  • Good instincts for breaking up passes.
  • Able to stick in tight coverage with receivers across the field
  • Plays press-man, off-man, and zone coverage well
  • Willing tackler.


  • Small size allows him to occasionally be bullied by bigger receivers. Can also struggle as a tackler
  • Frame doesn’t suggest much room for additional mass.
  • Has a tendency to get “grabby” when he feels himself getting beat. He could draw DPI penalties in the NFL

Prospect Video

What They’re Saying

Ward has the experience and talent to handle duties on the outside, but his lack of play strength combined with his elite footwork might be the deciding factor for a move inside. Ward is outstanding as a mirror-and-match cornerback with great route feel who is able to maintain tight coverage around the field with good technique and pattern recognition. He should become an early starter at nickel cornerback with the talent to make an immediate impact for a defense that faces a pass-happy division foe twice per year.

-Lance Zierlein (

Does He Fit The Giants?

Ward is, and will be, considered by many to be the top cornerback in the draft. He has elite athleticism and the ability to stick with most receivers in tight man coverage -- and make it look easy. That kind of skill is incredibly valuable to NFL defenses.

Some will, however, be concerned by his relatively modest stature and wonder if he might get overwhelmed by some NFL “X” receivers. When he doesn’t allow himself to be controlled by the receiver, Ward has a remarkable talent and timing to get a hand in the way and break up a pass, even when he has his back to the quarterback.

In a vacuum, without taking pick and value into account, the question of whether or not Ward fits with the Giants might come down to what their physical thresholds might be. Dave Gettleman’s history in Carolina isn’t instructive, as their defense used zone coverage, while James Bettcher’s uses a much more aggressive man coverage scheme. At Arizona, his corners were typically six feet tall and roughly 200 pounds, both taller and heavier than Ward. So while Ward might have plenty of athleticism to stick with receivers like a nasty rumor, the team might not have confidence that he will be able to disrupt routes at the snap like a larger corner might.

Adding draft position and value back in, it seems (very) unlikely that the Giant would draft Ward at second overall and even more unlikely that he will slip out of the first round. So while somebody is getting a good cornerback, it probably won’t be the Giants.