The 49ers selected DB Jimmie Ward with the 30th overall pick in the first round on Thursday night. General manager Trent Baalke knew exactly what he was doing in finding a somewhat unknown defensive back and not jumping forward.
There were several WRs including Odell Beckham, who others thought the 49ers could trade up for. While Beckham was taken at 12th overall by the New York Giants, it was near impossible for them to take a play-maker of that level as the team had other pressing needs.
The WR draft is extremely deep and the 49ers have five selections in the second and third round to use for Day 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft. Ward said in a media conference call that he had "no clue" who was going to take him with several teams showing interest.
Ward can play any position in the secondary even though he was originally a SS at Northern Illinois. His cover skills are physical and aggressive, which easily fit what Vic Fangio would want on defense.
"He's got a knack for making the appropriate tackle," Baalke said. "Sometimes it's pretty violent."
In the short term, Ward would compete immediately for the nickel CB spot as the team operates with five defensive backs for majority of the game. In 2013, they had a nickel package for at least 60% of the time on average for each week.
With Ward's versatility to play safety and cornerback, the 49ers will be able to plug him at any position they desire on the secondary. He will compete with Perrish Cox and Eric Wright for the nickel cornerbaack position for 2014.
“I take pride in being versatile,” Ward said in a conference call. “I can tackle. I can cover. I can do a lot of things. I’d love to compete for that nickel spot. That’s one of the things going into training camp that I’m going to really go hard at.”
Ward posted a 38-inch vertical jump, a 10 1/2-foot broad jump and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds during his Pro Day. What makes this impressive? He did it all with a stress fracture in his foot.
Ward underwent surgery last March and should be ready when training camp begins in late-July.