From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10-picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I will be profiling LSU defensive back, Jay Ward.
#5 Jay Ward, CB, LSU (SR) — 6006, 188 lbs.
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Jay Ward||6’0 3/4”/188||8 1/4||32 1/2||77|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Good size and length
— Experience playing safety, slot and in the box
— Played multiple coverages in multiple spots
— Good awareness in his coverage area
— Shows good range/angles to the sideline
— Good breakdown tackler in space
— Physical, likes to hit
— Willing and assignment sound versus run game
— Known to be a team leader
— Man coverage versus faster/quick receivers
— Very grabby in coverage, several PI penalties in games watched
— Change of direction is adequate
— Anticipation of receiver routes in Man coverage
— Will miss with big hit attempts; inconsistent with wrapping up on tackles
— Lacks size to play consistently in the box
— Several unnecessary roughness penalties (low on QB/after play is over)
— 2022: 60 tackles, 43 solo, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT, 4 PBU, 1 FR, 1 TD
— Career: 162 tackles, 107 solo, 3.5 TFL, 6 INT, 1 TD, 17 PBU, 1 FR, 1 TD, 2 FF, 2 blocked FG
— 46 games, 23 starts
— Senior Bowl Invitee
— Started at three positions in the secondary – cornerback, safety and nickel
— 2020 SEC Academic Honor Roll
— 3-star recruit out of high school
— Older brother Johnny played football at South Florida
Jay Ward is a long and lean athletic defender with good length. He has shown his versatility in college playing a variety of positions and in a variety of coverages. While he plays with physicality that is bigger than his size, it will also get him in trouble.
In coverage, Ward has played man, underneath zone as well as the deep area as a Cover 1, 2, or 3 defender. When aligned in the slot, he has a solid jam to redirect receivers and has the athleticism to cover bigger receivers in trail man. He gets good depth in his zone drops, playing with good pad level, has solid change of direction and good acceleration to the ball. Ward reads the quarterback well and has a good understanding of route combinations that come through his area. When blitzing, he shows good acceleration and no hesitation to run around or through a running back’s block.
At Florida, a couple snaps of Ward blitzing. He doesn’t make the play, but I like the aggressiveness.
As a safety, Ward has played on the boundary and field side and plays with good depth, staying as deep as the deepest receiver. From the single-high safety spot, he displays good range and angles to the outside. He has a good feel of route combinations and will get downhill quickly on underneath routes. In space, as the last line of defense or on the outside, Ward is a good tackler playing under control and wrapping up.
Versus Florida State, he covers a lot of ground from across midfield to the sideline to ensure the pass isn’t caught.
Ward is a good tackler in space, playing under control and wrapping up.
Walking up from the far safety position, Ward has the underneath zone and makes the stop on the crosser short of the line to gain.
Against the run, Ward plays bigger than his size. Willing to mix it up, he will go for the big hit when he has the opportunity. When in the box, he will take on blocks of offensive linemen with good hand placement and shows good effort to get off the block. Whether playing as the force player on the edge to funnel the ball inside or taking on pulling blockers he is willing to execute his role. He works through traffic efficiently and flows to the ball well in pursuit. As a tackler versus the run, he goes for the low wrap-up tackle or the big hit when a teammate has a hold of the runner.
From the safety spot, Ward is willing to participate in the run game, whether trying to blow up a blocker in the first clip or getting a hit on the ball carrier in the other two.
From the slot, speedy and quick receivers are going to give him trouble. He is extremely grabby as soon as he feels the receiver has the advantage. His change of direction is a little slow to hang with the cuts in man coverage. An aggressive hitter, he will have his misses, bouncing off receivers or not wrapping up allowing extra yardage. Ward had several unnecessary roughness penalties (low on QB, late hit, cheap shot on QB after the play) and pass interference plays in the games watched.
Versus Tennessee, from the slot at the top he never gets his head around and gets call for the easy DPI penalty.
Versus Ole Miss, in the slot he will wrap the hip of the receiver and turn him draw the penalty.
Versus Tennessee, this video gets a little fuzzy but here is an unnecessary hit on the QB away from the play that drew a flag.
Ward has experience in a variety of coverages at multiple positions. He can play a physical slot versus tight ends and bigger WRs. He has a good understanding of route combinations and awareness in zone coverage. Blitzing off the edge or playing the run, he displays good physicality and effort. As a safety, he has good range, plays with good depth and closes on the underneath pass quickly.
Area to improve include avoiding panic in man coverage situations and not grabbing the receiver. As a tackler Ward ranges from big hits to big misses. He needs to play with more consistency. Playing with more discipline to avoid dumb penalties will also need to be addressed.
Ward has the potential to be a valuable member of a defense. With the versatility to play in the slot, in the box or as a deep safety it allows the defense to mix things up. Ultimately, I think his best position is as a split or single-high safety. If a team is going to use him in the slot, he would fit best in a zone-heavy scheme where he can be also used to blitz. Initially, he could play in sub-packages and special teams with potential to become a starter.
For his player comp, I’ll go with Marquise Blair from Utah. The two have very similar measurements and play a physical brand of football that gets them some penalties. Blair too was a good tackler in space with good range.
Projection: Mid-Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 7.0 Backup/Special Teamer (5th Round)
Games Watched: 2022 – Vs Florida State, Vs Tennessee, At Florida, Vs Mississippi, Vs Alabama