The Cleveland Browns have a roster boasting several young and talented players.
That list includes the likes of running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, tight ends David Njoku and Harrison Bryant, left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., defensive end Myles Garrett, and safeties John Johnson III and Ronnie Harrison Jr.
Then there is cornerback Denzel Ward, who is heading into his fourth season as one of the league’s best at his position.
Ward is also the lone member of the Browns to be selected to the All-Under-25 Team by NFL.com’s Nick Shook:
Ward posted the league’s second-best tight-window rate at 40.5 percent (min. 40 targets), trailing only Jaire Alexander in the category. Known for having — in the words of the inimitable Mike Mayock — oily hips, Ward excels at staying in the hip pocket of pass catchers from snap to whistle. He’s also reliable when it comes to making a play on the ball, leading all qualifying corners in ballhawk rate last season, per Next Gen Stats. If the Browns are smart, Ward will be in Cleveland for a long time.
In case you are wondering, Garrett and Chubb would have also likely made the list, but they just missed the age cutoff after both players turned 25 in December.
Ward earned a Pro Bowl selection in his rookie season of 2018, and has posted coverage grades of at least 72 every season since being selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, while allowing just a 51.4 percent completion rate on passes thrown his way, according to Pro Football Focus.
He may also be the happiest member on the defensive side of the ball after defensive coordinator Joe Woods.
Ward has excelled while not always being surrounded by the best talent in the secondary, but that all changed in the offseason. The Browns drafted cornerback Greg Newsome II in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, signed safety John Johnson III in free agency, and are expecting safety Grant Delpit to return after missing the 2020 season with an injury.
Opposing quarterbacks were already nervous about throwing in Ward’s direction; now with an improved secondary life has become more difficult for them.