Jim Harbaugh discussed 49ers draft pick Jimmie Ward Thursday evening

Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers drafted Jimmie Ward with the 30th pick of the first round on Thursday. Later that evening, Jim Harbaugh met with the media to talk about the defensive back.

Tell us about DB Jimmie Ward? What do you like from him? What do you see his role being with the team?

“Competing in the secondary as a safety and a nickel. That’s something that we felt he’d be really good at, would excel at. A playmaker, has an instinct for reacting to plays before anybody else sees them. Just a step ahead of the rest of the defense. Covers a lot of ground. Covers up a lot of holes. I like his ball skills. He’s going to play the safety position with corner skills and that’s something that we value very much.” 

Would you consider moving him to corner full-time?

“He’ll have that shot as a nickel player. So, you’re talking versatility. Again, that’s something that we value a lot in this draft.”

Did he play a lot of nickel in college?

“Yeah, very effectively.”

The Seahawks obviously have a smaller than normal safety in S Earl Thomas. Are there skills there? Is Thomas sort of the prototype for that type of position?

“When you study Jimmie Ward and his ability to tackle, he’s got a knack for making the appropriate tackle. Sometimes it’s pretty violent, pretty vicious. He makes that decision right at the last second. Again, you see the instincts and the traits come out quite a bit. A get-down tackler. He can be a violent, cut tackler. He is a presence when he’s tackling ball carriers.”

You guys obviously drafted S Eric Reid last year and gave S Antoine Bethea a pretty good contract. Is it worth it to take a player in the first round who might only be a nickel guy for the foreseeable future, like several years?

“I don’t want to put any expectation on what it is, other than he’s a very good football player. And, he’ll compete at spots in our secondary, and he’s versatile enough to do that. That’s something that we’re excited about and something we value very much.”

What kind of reconaissance did you do personally with him in terms of meeting or talking to other players about him?

“He visited us and we visited him at the combine. A very up-beat, positive, likeable guy. Loves football and those things came across. They were evident.”

When a guy doesn’t play in a BCS conference, do you have to take different things into account when you’re evaluating him to try to gauge how he’ll fit in at this level?

“I think there’s a lot of MAC pride that’ll be working to his advantage. Just ask [T] Joe Staley.”

Where is he in his recovery from his foot injury?

“We feel, and our doctors feel, that he will be good to go, ready to go from the start of training camp.”

Do you remember when he had surgery?

“No, I don’t remember when he had surgery.”

Everyone kind of looked at corner and wide receiver. Obviously, actions speak louder than words, but where did the corners and wide receivers factor into that discussion of what to do at number 30?

“They factored in. All of the players that went in the first round are extremely good players. And, our scouting staff, our coaches, scouted it very similar. I thought the strategy to make our picks when it was our time to pick paid off for us. We got a player that we valued taking with that 30th pick.”

Did you guys consider trading up to get anyone you had targeted earlier?

“There were considerations. In the end we thought the best thing for our team was to sit there at 30, keep our fingers crossed and get a player that we really valued.”

With that nickel spot, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s been, he entrusted it to CB Carlos Rogers because it is such a difficult position to play and you have to have that veteran knowhow. How confident are you that a rookie can catch up and learn that so fast?

“Well, there’s a process for any rookie coming into the league. I don’t have a timetable on that. But, again, it’s a very valued position. We treat it like a starter who plays 60-plus percent of the time. So, again, a very valued position and a valued player that we feel has the ability to compete for that position.”

Who do you see competing at that position with him?

“[CB] Eric Wright and [CB] Perrish Cox.”

If he were to play safety at all as a rookie, would it be to give Bethea or Reid a break or how would he work into that position, at least initially?

“Initially as an understudy.”

If I wrote this down correctly, you said in your interview that you could tell he really likes football. What does a guy say in his interviews that, it seems everybody that would be drafted would like football, but that obviously stuck out in your mind. What does a guy say that would give you that impression?

“More by what they do than what they say. You see it on the tape the way he plays the game of football. He doesn’t shy away. When it comes to contact, when you study this player, you’ll see that he’s trying to get from point A to point B as fast as he can and hit somebody. And that speaks volumes.”

Do you consider right now CB Tramaine Brock and CB Chris Culliver your starting cornerbacks?

“They certainly have the license and the ability to be our starting cornerbacks.”

How was Jimmie used at Northern Illinois, mainly as a safety against the run more, but since he does have some of those nickelback skills as well? 

“Very versatile. He could play down in the low part of the box. He could blitz. He was used in the deep part (of the field) as a safety and made plays on the ball. And was also used as a nickel covering the slot receivers.”

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