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2018 NFL Draft: Cleveland Browns Pick CB Denzel Ward at No. 4

The Browns decide to make a big investment in the secondary near the top of the draft.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Ohio State vs Wisconsin Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With the fourth pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns selected CB Denzel Ward (5-11, 183 lbs, Ohio State) Thursday night.

Scouting Reports

When the staff at Dawgs By Nature compiled our Browns big boards, Ward was cumulatively listed as the No. 6 player on our big boards. Here is a scouting report from CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler:

A two-year starter at Ohio State, Ward came off the bench in 2016, but he was basically a sophomore starter (along with Lattimore and Conley) before becoming Ohio State’s top corner in 2017, playing primarily left cornerback in the Buckeyes’ press-quarters man scheme – also saw snaps at right corner and in the slot with the Buckeyes’ issues covering tight ends in the second half of the 2017 season.

A speed demon with twitchy athleticism, Ward competes with the balance, patience and movement skills to mirror receivers in press coverage, also showing a decisive reactor to make plays on the ball. His lack of size and build immediately stands out, but he plays such tight coverage on film that it usually must be a perfect throw to complete the pass. Overall, Ward’s lack of inches shows at times in coverage and as a run defender, but he is a premier athlete with the budding instincts and required toughness to be trusted vs. NFL receivers on an island, either on the outside or in the slot – one of the top defensive prospects in the 2018 draft class.

Here is what Pro Football Focus said about Ward:

Denzel Ward it the latest in a line of Ohio State cornerbacks to hit the NFL draft. Like all Buckeyes cornerbacks, he has been coached to play a specific technique which will need adjustment in the NFL where contact rules are stricter, but he has the athleticism and tools to make that adjustment. He has outstanding coverage numbers and extensive experience in man coverage, but flashed a good feel for zone coverage and shouldn’t be scheme-specific at the next level. One of the best pure cover corners in this draft class.

Here are some quotes from scouts’ assessment on Ward, as collected by long-time NFL writer Bob McGinn:

  • “He’s much better than the guy the Raiders drafted last year. He’s so quick, and he’s a good tackler, too. Only thing against him is his height. He also had some red-zone problems against (Simmie) Cobbs (of Indiana).”
  • “Size is his deal,” said one scout, adding that he wasn’t as good as Lattimore or Conley. “Quick, good feel. Small, but a good athlete.”

How He Fits the Browns

Cleveland needed a boost in the secondary after letting go of CB Jason McCourty. There is also a chance that CB Jamar Taylor could be on the way out. Even so, ever since CB Joe Haden’s prime (which was many years ago), the team has lacked a top-tier player in the secondary. Ward gives them that type of player, even with all of the guys they added via free agency.

React Now

What do you think, Browns fans?


How do you grade the Cleveland Browns’ selection of CB Denzel Ward at No. 4 overall?

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    (355 votes)
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