The 49ers did not trade up. Then, when they went on the clock, they made a stunning pick of Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward.
College career: He had four career blocked kicks on special teams in college. A three-year starter (39 career starts) with excellent production, leading the team in tackles and interceptions as a junior and senior. He was named All-MAC the past three seasons. He recorded 11 interceptions in his college career.
Scouting report: “Ward doesn’t look like much but packs a punch and plays bigger than he looks with an energetic mentality and confident attitude. He is instinctive, scrappy and physical and plays the game with strong conviction. Ward’s tape shows off his versatility with experience lining up at FS, CB, and WLB, spending time in man and zone and handling multiple responsibilities – future NFL starter at FS” – NFLDraftScout.com
How he fits: The selection of Ward is a big surprise, considering the 49ers selected Eric Reid in the first round last season. And in free agency, the 49ers awarded veteran Antoine Bethea a four-year, $21 million contract. So Ward does not arrive on the scene as a potential rookie starter at safety. But he fills a need, all the same. Ward will be expected to beat out Daryl Morris and Perrish Cox to replace Carlos Rogers as the 49ers nickel back. The cornerback who covers the slot receiver gets on the field for approximately 60 percent of the defensive snaps over the course of a season. He is also expected to be a special-teams standout in his first year and eventually work into a starting safety job before the expiration of his rookie contract.