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NFL Prospect Focus: Jimmie Ward and Robert Herron

Two potential second day steals in May's NFL Draft. Greg Gabriel

March 13, 2014
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Jimmie Ward – Safety – Northern Illinois
Size – 5106 – 197 – 4.49
Strong Points – Productive, instincts, run support and tackle, can play man on a slot, zone, ball reactions and hands, range
Weak Points – Has a foot injury that requires surgery and will prevent him from doing any private workouts, lacks ideal size for the position, doesn’t play to timed speed
2013 Stats: 95 total tackles, seven interceptions, one sack
Summation - Ward is a fourth-year senior and a three-year starter for the Huskies. As a freshman in 2010, he played in every game and was an outstanding special teams' performer with three blocked kicks. He became a fulltime starter at safety in 2011
In 2012 tape, he played closer to the line of scrimmage, in short, he was more of a box safety. He still played deep at times and was put in man coverage situations on an inside receiver. In 2013, while he still played up tight at times, it wasn’t as often. He was still used to cover inside receivers.
Ward has good athleticism. He is quick with good change of direction, a good turn, and good overall body control. He timed 4.49 at his pro day, but I don’t see that speed on the field. He played more like a 4.55 type.
Ward is a quick reactor with good instincts. He shows good anticipation and is around the ball. He is effective as a run support player, showing the ability to take on and shed blocks and is a consistent tackler. He is used to blitz at times and does a good job coming off the edge.
When in man coverage, he shows the turn and mirror skills needed. He has a good jam and does well versus shorter routes. He doesn’t have the long speed to consistently cover deep, but has good ball reactions and closes well to make plays.
In zone, he shows good awareness. He has the anticipation and range to get to the sideline from the hash. For the most part, he keeps plays in front of him and does not get beaten deep. I did see him blow a coverage in their Bowl game versus Utah State. He was beaten deep but was able to recover and get the PBU.
Overall, Ward has the instincts and skills to be an eventual starting strong safety in the NFL. He lacks ideal size, and the fact that he needs foot surgery will hurt his draft value. I see him as a solid third round type, with the injury potentially dropping him to the fourth.
Grade B 6.6

Robert Herron – Wide Receiver – Wyoming
Size – 5087 – 193 – 4.48
Strong Points – Athlete, speed, hands, adjust to ball, pass routes, run after catch, compete in traffic, had a strong senior bowl week
Weak Points – Size, can only be a slot at the next level
2013 Stats: 72 catches for 937 yards and nine touchdowns
Summation – Herron is a fourth-year senior and a three-year starter. As a freshman, he played both wide receiver and running back. He has only recently become a receiver (2011 season). In high school, Herron was not only a very good football player, but was also a top track athlete with personal bests of 10.5 in the 100 meters and 20.99 in the 200 meters.
Herron plays both inside and out at Wyoming. He is used on a variety of routes including bubble screens, outs, slants, and crossing routes. With his speed, he is also used deep.
Herron may be short, but he is not small, he has a solid build to go along with very good strength (18 reps of 225 at the Combine). He is quick off the ball and does a very good job of both working through and avoiding jams. He is quick into his routes and has the flexibility to drop his hips and get in and out of a cut quickly. With his body control and quick feet, he is effective with multi-cut routes. He consistently gets open on both short and deep routes.
He has good hands and can track the ball and make the difficult catch. He shows the courage to compete for the ball in traffic. After the catch, he is an instinctive and strong runner who has the ability to make people miss in space. His run skills allow him to turn a short pass into a long gain.
If Herron were two inches taller, we would be talking about him as a premium round draft pick. His height will likely limit him to being a slot receiver, but he can be very effective in that role. I can see him being used as a club's primary slot very early in his career. While he has not been a returner in college, he has the traits to be a good NFL return man. Herron should be a solid third round pick, fourth round at worst.
Grade B 6.6

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