As of now, the Los Angeles Rams’ starting cornerbacks would be Kayvon Webster (if healthy) and Troy Hill in 2018. It’s likely the Rams will re-sign Trumaine Johnson or Nickell Robey-Coleman, but probably not both of them. With a need for a starting cornerback, should general manager Les Snead consider drafting or even trading up for Ohio State’s Denzel Ward?
Ward is quite possibly one of the best shutdown corners in the 2018 NFL Draft. His ridiculously gifted athleticism caused offenses to avoid his side of the field. His instincts are top-notch. Ward possesses great vision and plays with a surprising amount of patience. He scans the field, and reads players’ actions. Ward is quick enough to keep up with most offensive foes, and his ability to change direction seems effortless. He’s fast enough to allow space in coverage and recover quickly when needed. The evidence for this is in the numbers, especially in pass deflections. He finished with 37 tackles, 15 pass deflections and two interceptions last season with the Buckeyes.
Ward is an undeniable ballhawk, but he lacks the frame or strength to be a competent tackler in the NFL. He will also struggle to cover larger, more physical wide receivers in the NFL. The former Buckeye isn’t the smallest cornerback in the draft, but competing at 5’10” will be problematic.. He tends to play much taller than what he’s capable of, and that has led to several big plays against him. Ward also has a bad habit of not turning his head around enough in deeper routes. The other concern is that some of his stats benefited from a gifted defensive front while with the Buckeyes. He may not have access to that type of defensive line in the NFL.
Ward features a coveted skill set that will have many teams interested. The thing that most suitors will have accept is that he may work best as a nickel cornerback. Still, his talent is undeniable, and if teams have a need for a pure nickel corner, then Ward is the best option in the NFL Draft.
Luckily for the Rams, they have Wade Phillips as a defensive coordinator and he would definitely find a spot for Ward. It is doubtful that Ward would drop to pick 23, and if they want him, the Rams might have to trade up for him. Expect Ward to be an NFL Combine warrior, which should give him a draft stock increase when it’s all said and done. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he is selected within the top 10.