S- Jay Ward, LSU (6-2, 188)
One of the deepest positions at the Senior Bowl this year is safety, which makes sense given it looks like one of the most talented positions in the 2023 NFL Draft. Not only are there potentially more than six Top 100 picks at the position, but there are also so many different flavors of safety heading to Mobile
Georgia’s Christopher Smith, Ohio State’s Ronnie Hickman, Boise State’s JL Skinner, and Florida State’s Jammie Robinson, all look like they could be vying to go within the first 64 picks of the NFL Draft. While Illinois’ duo of Jartavius Martin and Sydney Brown may not be too far behind them. One defensive back coming from a major program with a strong history of them that doesn’t seem to have the cachet associated with his name is LSU’s Jay Ward.
Ward is one of the most experienced prospects coming out of the SEC with 46 games played and 23 starts across three different positions. Primarily being deployed as a big nickel, Ward also rotates back to safety and has several starts there.
As a nickel, Ward’s aggressiveness and cover instincts make him a killer playing as a flats defender in the zone. He has natural change-of-direction skills and the eyes to diagnose route combos and make plays in front of him. When manning up against slots, his length helps him smother receivers to throw off timing and it translates over to his ball skills where his long arms help disrupt the catch point.
With some of the most fluid hips in the class, Ward is a natural when lining up as a Cover 2 safety and playing the deep half. He’s also got the eyes and ranges to read and react to the quarterback and make plays on the ball. Whether at safety or nickel, he’s an aggressive run defender and more than willing tackler in run support and plays with an understanding of his role when being the force player.
One-on-ones at the Senior Bowl will test his pedal, which can be high, and his footwork, which can have false steps at times. Overall, his length and physicality should excite teams entering the NFL Draft whether they’re looking for safety, nickel, or even a tight end stopper.