The first round of the 2014 NFL Draft is a wrap, and the San Francisco 49ers came away with defensive back Jimmie Ward. There were a lot of question marks among 49ers fans when the name was announced, but as we've learned more about the pick, it starts to make more sense. This is a guy who will step in and compete as the nickel back, while also learning the role of NFL safety. His versatility opens the door for a lot of things.
Now that we've moved past the first round, it's time for the instantaneous grading that will hold little value one or two or three years from, but feeds our craving for instantaneous judgement! There are a variety of grades out there, and I thought I would compile a few of them. I'll continue to add them as they show up.
Additionally, if you scroll down below, you can provide your own grade. Let us know what you think.
SBNation.com - B+:
The risk: For the second straight year, the 49ers took a safety in the first round. The only risk there is not being able to address other positions with those high draft choices.
The reward: The 49ers have no solidified the safety position with two players who complement one another well. Jimmie Ward is outstanding in coverage and could even play slot corner in certain packages if the 49ers see fit.
SI.com - A+: "In Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle’s Kam Chancellor re-established the value of the safety who could play in lurk (midfield) coverage against slot receivers and tight ends, adding an important element to a team’s overall defensive concepts. Ward has already done a lot of lurking, and he’ll be a great asset when the 49ers move to their nickel and dime coverages, because he covers so much ground, and in so many different ways."
Pete Prisco - B: "He is a heck of a football player, but with Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid was that really a need?"
Matt Miller/Chris Simms - A/B
Salt Lake Tribune - B: "Ward adds to an already talented 49ers defense that spent a first round pick on Eric Reid last year. San Francisco needed a corner more, but with a shallow group at safety, Ward is a good pick. He’s smaller, but is a rangy ballhawk."
NFL.com - "Good Pick, Good Fit": "This draft is a luxury for the 49ers, given how loaded the roster is. Ward might have been taken a tad high, but he can play nickel for the team before taking over as starting safety in a season or two."
eDraft.com - A: "While we might not have Ward incredibly high on our big board, he's a tremendous fit for the 49ers and represents value for them at 30. Remember, there was some thought that Ward might go as high as the late teens. Put Ward in the secondary with Eric Reid and watch them bloom."
Walter Football - C+: "Jimmie Ward will apparently be used as a nickel corner, so this pick makes a bit more sense, given that the safety position is filled. Still though, that doesn't change the fact that Ward is a bit of a reach; everyone we've spoken to had him in the second round. I'm also wondering why the 49ers didn't move up. What are they going to do with all of their picks?"
The MMQB - No grades: Despite six picks in the top 100 to manipulate the draft, GM Trent Baalke stayed put and took safety Jimmie Ward, after picking Eric Reid in the first round last year and signing Antoine Bethea this offseason. Curious move, but Bethea turns 30 in June and isn’t a spring chicken.
Pro Football Focus - No grades: It may have been a curious pick to see a safety selected after taking FS Eric Reid in the first round a year ago and adding FS Antoine Bethea in free agency, but Ward brings some slot versatility to the mix, and that’s likely where he’ll start his career. Last year’s slot corner, Carlos Rogers, is now in Oakland, so the position should be up for grabs. Rogers graded at -6.8 in coverage a year ago.
ESPN - Thumbs down: This very well may turn out to be a good pick, because Ward is a good player. But the 49ers had bigger needs at receiver and cornerback than at safety. I thought receivers Cody Latimeror Marqise Lee would have been better value picks.