With the 30th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft the San Francisco 49ers selected safety Jimmy Ward out of Northern Illinois. This may have been a surprise to many, including myself, but ultimately it makes a lot of sense if Ward is able to successfully convert to play the nickelback position in order to cover slot receivers. Ward could very well stay put at the safety position if the 49ers feel as if he is best suited there but, moving him to the slot makes a lot more sense for the reasoning behind selecting him in the first round. Due to the loss of Carlos Rogers (starting nickelback in 2013), Ward will have a chance to compete with Eric Wright and Perrish Cox to be Rogers replacement in the secondary. Ward is definitely capable of making this transition as he is an undersized safety (5'11" and 192 lbs) and physical athlete who displays exceptional ball-hawking abilities. His ability to cover the gap quickly and be a sure-tackler near the line of the scrimmage and in the open field makes him an intriguing selection for the 49ers who hope they have found another key addition to their growing secondary group.
Jimmie Ward #15
In 2013 Jimmie Ward was a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist after leading the NIU Huskies with 92 tackles (62 solo) and 7 interceptions, including 10 total pass deflections. One concern to take notice of is that Ward has been dealing with a foot injury that prevented him from working out at the NFL Combine but, there have been reports that he should be able to start practicing in 2-3 weeks from now. Durability may be a worry for Ward heading into the NFL but, if he is able to stay healthy there is much upside in this selection by the 49ers.
Round two should be interesting to watch today for the 49ers to see if they continue to focus on adding to their defense or possibly the offense instead with a wide receiver from the deep talent that is still available on the board (e.g., Marqise Lee, Cody Latimer, Davante Adams, Paul Richardson, etc.). Wide receiver Stevie Johnson was also acquired from the Bills by the 49ers today for a conditional 4th-Round pick in 2015 so this could definitely affect the way that the 49ers focus on their selections today.