Each year, we like to run a series of posts called "90-in-90." The idea is that we'll take a look at every player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few ways. This roster will certainly change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not exactly 90 players in 90 days. At this point, it's a name we're keeping around for street cred.
The San Francisco 49ers added defensive back Jimmie Ward with their first selection in the recently completely 2014 NFL Draft. It was a move that came as a bit of a surprise to the many fans and media members who expected the 49ers to make a big splash on the first night of the draft by trading up to snag one of the big name wide receivers or cornerbacks.
After learning more and more about Jimmie Ward, it's hard not to be excited about the potential he brings to San Francisco's defense. When breaking down Ward's tape, it was easy to see why the 49ers chose to go in the direction they did. Ward is a versatile, physical player that plays much bigger than his size and his skill set provides the 49ers' defense with a multitude of options.
Expected 2014 impact:
Ward's future may be as a starting safety alongside Eric Reid, but in 2014 his role will be as the team's nickel cornerback. Over the course of the last two seasons, the 49ers have used their nickel personnel over 60 percent of the time, making Ward a de facto starter. He will add some needed playmaking ability to the backend of San Francisco's defense. Ward is a fantastic athlete and has a knack for being around the ball.
Carlos Rogers had become a liability in the nickel role when facing quality slot receivers. Percy Harvin, Tavon Austin, Wes Welker, Victor Cruz and Andre Ellington are among the shifty, slot players that show up on San Francisco's schedule this season. Rookie cornerbacks often struggle during their inaugural campaign, but Ward's athleticism and coverage skills should provide a better option to match-up with these types of players than Rogers did.
A perhaps overlooked impact that Ward could have in 2014 could be in picking up the slack for the absence of NaVorro Bowman. There's a lot of time between now and the start of the season, but it's incredibly likely that Bowman will miss at least part of the upcoming season. The combination of Bowman and Willis in the nickel package has allowed the 49ers to remain stout against the run while not sacrificing in coverage against opposing tight ends and running backs. Ward obviously isn't Bowman, but he is a capable run defender and bringing him in rather than your typical third cornerback in the nickel should help in that aspect.
Odds of making the roster:
As a first-round selection, Ward's roster spot is secured. San Francisco's secondary saw several players depart this offseason and with the likes of Perrish Cox, Eric Wright and Chris Cook in the mix at cornerback behind presumed starters Chris Culliver and Tramaine Brock, it will be better for all of us if Ward is able to come in and make an immediate impact.