Unfortunately, opt-outs will take just about all of the notable NFL Draft prospects for the LSU Tigers and Purdue Boilermakers off the field in this year’s Citrus Bowl. But, LSU safety Jay Ward will be suiting up and the Las Vegas Raiders will be looking to improve their defensive backfield, so Ward is worth tuning in for.
Jay Ward, S (No. 5)
Career stats (four seasons): 159 total tackles (105 solo), 3.5 TFL, 6 INTs, 17 PD, 2 FFs
NFL Mock Draft Database draft projection as of 12/31: 5th round
Jay Ward is a senior defensive back prospect who made the transition from corner, where he saw his first action as a collegiate player, to safety. Ward has been the leader of an LSU defense that has been in constant transition over the last three years—three defensive coordinators in three years. Ward’s leadership is felt through his play on the field as he is a high-motor, maximum-effort player that is willing to put his body on the line on any given play.
Although Ward is a former cornerback, against the run from the safety position he has a physical presence in that he makes full-speed collisions with ball carriers. Ward does a good job of closing from distance to make plays at or near the line scrimmage. Ward also does a good job of disputing quick plays like screens by quickly shedding blockers and getting to the ball carrier. Ward plays with a physical presence that outweighs his actual size and body profile.
In pass coverage, Ward shows to be an instinctive payer in zone. He has multiple interceptions where he did a good job of reading the quarterback’s eyes to the receiver and made the interception. Ward has good range roaming the deeper portions of the field and is a player that can play as the deep FS. In man-to-man situations, Ward does a good job of being technically sound and closing to receivers to make the tackle or deflect the pass.
All prospects within the top 300 of NMDD’s consensus big board have opted out of the bowl game.