Mel Kiper Jr. and Mike Mayock think highly of Jimmie Ward.
Neither will be making selections for any teams in May’s NFL Draft, but both respected NFL draft analysts held conference calls with media members this month and thought the former Northern Illinois safety has a good shot to go in the second round.
Both Ward and former NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch will participate in the NFL Scouting Combine Feb. 22 through 25.
Ward sat out only one game in four years at NIU and led the Huskies with 95 tackles and seven interceptions as a senior. He was named second-team All-MAC and earned Associated Press third-team All-American honors as well.
“Jimmie Ward has done a great job. A, in his career, and B, at the Senior Bowl [in January],” said Mayock, who has been with the NFL Network since 2005. “I think the only negative on him is [NFL] teams worry about his durability, but the kid never misses a game anyway. I think he’s a great football player and I think he’s going in the second round.”
Kiper, who has served as a draft analyst for ESPN since 1984, said Ward is the third-best safety in the draft behind Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor.
“Jimmie Ward is an outstanding player,” Kiper said. “He’s not the big safety [NIU listed him at 5-11, 192 pounds this past season] but I think he fits today’s NFL which is coverage ability, and the fact he’s around the action so much and makes so many impact plays.
“I think he could go second or third round,” Kiper said. “I think he’s going to be a fast-riser, I liked him in terms of the safety position.”
Ward and the rest of the college safety prospects will work out on Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Lynch and the other quarterbacks will work out on Sunday.
Lynch lit up the record books during his last two years in DeKalb, finishing third in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2013.
He had a rough outing at the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Jan. 18, completing just 2 of 7 passes for three yards and threw two interceptions.
Mayock believes the Chicago native can be a quarterback in the NFL.
“As far as Jordan Lynch is concerned, he’s another kid I root for. I think he had so much pressure on him at the East-West game, trying to show people he could throw the ball, all that kind of stuff,” Mayock said. “I think that kid’s a winner, I think he’s a tough kid. I think he should be given an opportunity to show he can play quarterback in the NFL, and if he can’t, I like his attitude.
“His attitude is ‘Hey, give me a shot at quarterback, and if I prove I can’t do it, then I’ll run down on kickoffs or I’ll play safety or I’ll play tailback, whatever. And I really like that.”
Kiper feels Lynch, who proved he has plenty of athletic ability by rushing for 4,343 yards during his collegiate career, will end up at another spot on the field, but may not be drafted initially.
“Jordan Lynch is either going to have to be a running back, be a receiving entity, (or a) safety,” Kiper said. “Not a quarterback at the pro level and more of a guy [who is a] sixth-seventh round (pick) or priority free agent.”