05/12/2014 - 49ers deepen roster with 12 picks in draft...The San Francisco 49ers entered the draft with 11 picks -- including six in the first three rounds - with one of the NFL's deepest rosters. And they made it even deeper. Instead of taking 11 picks, the 49ers made 12 after a bevy of trades on the second night landed another fourth-round pick on Saturday. That came just hours after acquiring wide receiver Stevie Johnson from the Buffalo Bills for a 2015 draft pick. In acquiring that fourth-round selection next year, they essentially landed Johnson for free.
The 49ers had two pressing needs they needed to fill at wide receiver and cornerback. With the addition of Johnson and fourth-round pick Bruce Ellington of South Carolina, they quickly went from needy to deep at the position. San Francisco used its first-round pick on safety Jimmie Ward - a hard-hitting safety from Northern Illinois - who will start his pro career at the nickel position vacated by Carlos Rogers, who the team released at the start of free agency clearing up more than $6 million in cap space. Then, they spent three picks on cornerbacks on day three of the draft. With those needs addressed, the 49ers were able to stick to their draft board and use their other picks to add depth, prepare for the future and take chances on players with upside. "Talking to the youngsters, their parents, their family," head coach Jim Harbaugh said. "You hear the excitement and roars in the background. These last three days were signature days for these families, life-changing moments." - The Sports Xchange
05/12/2014 - A closer look at the 49ers' picks: Round 1/30 -- Jimmie Ward, S, 5-11, 193, Northern Illinois...Ward is an impact defensive back that will come in and play the nickel position right away while learning to play safety behind veteran Antoine Bethea. The 49ers signed Bethea to immediately replace Donte Whitner, but Bethea will turn 30 prior to training camp. Ward is the long-term option at safety that is versatile enough to make an impact his rookie season. - The Sports Xchange
05/11/2014 - The Cowboys didn't draft a safety until the seventh round largely because they feel good about the young safeties on the roster. They would have taken Jimmie Ward of North Illinois if he was available in the second. He was gone in the first. They Cowboys didn't think anyone else was better than what they already have in J.J. Wilcox, Jeff Heath, Barry Church, Jakar Hamilton and Matt Johnson.
"After that, we felt like we were getting a lot of what we had," executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "We like J.J. We like Church. We like Heath. We will see how these guys play out," Jones said. "We got a little on the come in Jakar Hamilton, and we'll see what Matt Johnson does. "We mixed in a few guys with them tonight, and let them go out there and compete. I feel pretty comfortable there. More comfortable than people from the outside looking in." - The Sports Xchange
05/08/2014 - 2014 DRAFT SCOUT FINAL TOP 100: 33/1. Jimmie Ward, SS, Northern Illinois, 5-11, 193, 4.48, 1-2...Ward has football smarts and puts himself in position to succeed, using his speed and range to cover the deep half of the field. He came off a 95-tackle, seven interception senior season at NIU and then further impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl. NFLDdraftScout.com's Rob Rang said Ward was the Senior Bowl's most impressive pass defender. He set school-record with three punt blocks as a freshman in 2010. Frankly: Perhaps because the NFL has plenty of destructive tight ends, Ward's value increased since the end of season and might have jumped higher or earlier if he were taller. - Frank Cooney, NFLDraftScout.com
05/06/2014 - Dane Brugler's 2014 NFL Draft Final Top-50: 20. Jimmie Ward SS, Northern Illinois (5-11, 193, 4.59, SR)...The top senior safety on the board, Ward is a versatile defensive back with cornerback movement skills and the physical mentality of a safety. He takes aggressive, confident angles in zone, but also shows the feet and athleticism to play tight in man coverage. - Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
04/21/2014 - 2014 NFL Draft Defensive Backs: Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois, 5-11, 193, 4.48...Ward has football smarts and puts himself in position to succeed, using his speed and range to cover the deep half of the field. He came off a 95-tackle, seven interception senior season at NIU and then further impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl. NFLDdraftScout.com's Rob Rang said Ward was the Senior Bowl's most impressive pass defender. He set school-record with three punt blocks as a freshman in 2010. Frankly: In an NFL deep in destructive tight ends, Ward would be a first round pick if he were a bit taller, and that is saying a lot for a strong safety. - Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange
02/20/2014 - 2014 NFL Draft Scout Pre-Combine Top 64 Prospects: 62. Jimmie Ward, SS, Northern Illinois, 5-11, 191, 4.59, 2...Ward came off a 95-tackle, seven interception senior season at NIU and then further impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl. He is smart, heady and puts himself in position to succeed, using his speed and range to cover the deep half of the field. NFLDraftScout.com's Rob Rang said Ward was the Senior Bowl's most impressive pass defender this year. - Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange
01/25/2014 - 2014 Senior Bowl, Helped Themselves: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois - Scouts knew heading into the Senior Bowl that Ward possessed the fluidity and instincts to cover but competition in the MAC is much different than in Mobile. Athletic enough to handle deep coverage, as well as slide down to cover slot receivers, Ward was the Senior Bowl's most impressive pass defender this year. - Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com
01/22/2014 - 2014 Senior Bowl Wednesday: Under-the-radar defenders highlight North practice...Another small but feisty defensive back catching the eye of scouts at the Senior Bowl was Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward. While lacking the frame scouts would prefer at the position, the 5-foot-10, 193-pound Ward is an aggressive downhill tackler, who crashed the line of scrimmage in run support and raced down the field as a middle defender on kickoff coverage. Ward was moved all over the field by the Atlanta Falcons' coaching staff, lining up as a single-high safety, dropping down to cover tight ends as a traditional strong safety and splitting out to cover receivers out of the slot. In each case, his vision and burst to the ball consistently put him in position to make big plays.
One particularly impressive play came while he was backed up as a deep centerfielder. Reading a wide run to the right (his left) from West Virginia running back Charles Sims, Ward exploded towards the line of scrimmage, zipping past would-be blockers to "tackle" the 6-foot, 214-pound back in the open-field. Tackling is strictly forbidden during the all-star game practices, but Ward came in so fast, Sims had no choice but to attempt a jump-cut to his right, losing his balance and falling to the ground on a play in which he appeared to have an wide lane for an easy score. - Rob Rang & Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
01/21/2014 - 2014 Senior Bowl: 10 observations from Monday's North practice...7. As I mentioned in my Senior Bowl preview, Northern Illinois S Jimmie Ward is the top safety prospect in Mobile this week in my opinion and he played like it on Monday. He overcame a few poor angles early and put together a good practice, showing off his foot quickness and aggressive instincts. A Mobile-native, Ward could make a case to be the top defensive back overall this week. - Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
01/20/2014 - 2014 SENIOR BOWL, DEFENSIVE BACK: Top player: Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois...Coming off a 95-tackle, seven interception senior season, Ward has been quietly ascending up draft boards since the Fall. He is smart, heady and puts himself in position to succeed, using his speed and range to cover the deep half of the field. Look for the safety to have a big week in Mobile. - Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
12/26/2013 - PLAYERS TO WATCH: S Jimmie Ward will play the final game of his illustrious career against Utah State. The NIU defense is hurting after allowing Bowling Green sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson to do his best Payton Manning impersonation. Johnson torched NIU's defense for career highs of 393 yards and five touchdowns. Ward leads the Huskies with 89 tackles and six interceptions. His leadership leading up to the game and during the tight moments in the bowl game could be crucial to his team's chances to stop Utah State. - The Sports Xchange
12/06/2013 - 2013 ALL-MAC FIRST TEAM: Defensive Back - Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois...Ward, one of the top defensive backs in the country with six interceptions, eight pass break-ups and a team-leading 77 tackles in 2013, earned first team All-MAC honors for the second consecutive season and his third all-league selection overall. - Northern Illinois football
12/06/2013 - PLAYERS TO WATCH: Senior safety Jimmie Ward will not only be remembered as one of the best defensive backs in NIU history, but also one of the most experienced players overall. When he takes the fi eld Friday night in Detroit, he will tie the program record for most games played in a career with 54, held by former teammates Martel Moore and Sean Progar. Ward, who was named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award in October, has also been selected to play in the 2014 Reese's Senior Bowl, which will take place Jan. 25, 2014, in his hometown of Mobile, Ala. - Northern Illinois football
12/06/2013 - PLAYERS TO WATCH: NIU senior safety Jimmie Ward continues to play at an elite level. After a spectacular interception at Toledo, Ward has six INTs on the season, the most in a single season by an NIU player since 2003, when Randee Drew picked off six passes. He ranks tied for fifth in the country in interceptions. The senior, who often draws the assignment of covering the opponent's top receiver, leads NIU in tackles with 77 and has broken up eight passes after knocking down three versus Western Michigan. The first Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist in school history, Ward was also namedto SI.com's Midseason All-America team. He returned an interception at Purdue 62 yards for a touchdown and set up the Huskies' game-winning field goal at Iowa by intercepting Iowa QB Jake Rudock with 1:17 to play. - Northern Illinois football
12/03/2013 - Seven more prospects have accepted their invitations to the 2014 Senior Bowl in Mobile: Western Kentucky RB Antonio Andrews, Northern Illinois DB Jimmie Ward, Clemson QB Tajh Boyd, Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller, Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews, Colorado State C Weston Richburg and Florida CB Jaylen Watkins. - Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
09/12/2013 - PLAYERS TO WATCH: Safety Jimmie Ward continues to play despite wearing a cast on his left hand. Ward is one of the top tacklers on the defense, plus an emotional leader. The Huskies will have to be weary of a tough game at Idaho, not looking past the hosts. Ward's leadership will play a big part in how the team reacts to a potential trap game. - The Sports Xchange
08/28/2013 - PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2013: DB Jimmie Ward is a playmaker on defense that had a team-high 14 tackles in the loss to Florida State, Ward enters his senior season expected to become a leader with the loss of several standout defensive linemen. Ward had 104 tackles in 13 games and intercepted three passes. - The Sports Xchange
07/16/2013 - 2013 JIM THORPE AWARD WATCH LIST: S Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois...A first team All-MAC selection, Ward was the Huskies leading tackler in 2012 with 104 stops, topping his previous career high of 100 in 2011. The Mobile, Ala. native also led the NIU defense with three interceptions, a career high. He made a career-high 14 tackles, including 11 solo stops, against Florida State in the 2013 Orange Bowl.
In addition to his 14 tackles in the Orange Bowl, Ward made double-digit stops in six other games. He made 12 tackles on three separate occasions against Iowa, Central Michigan and Ball State. Ward, a product of Davidson High School, has 225 career tackles and three blocked punts. One of three MAC players on the list, Ward is joined on the list by Buffalo's Najja Johnson and Dayonne Nunley of Miami (Ohio). - Northern Illinois football