Jihad Ward, Defensive End
University of Illinois
6’05” 297 lbs.
- Ideal 5-tech size/length
- Versatility along the defensive line
- Can pass rush around the edge
- Good motor
- Needs to get more aggressive against the run
- Inconsistent technique
- Can be taken out of a play by double teams
The quick summary on Ward is he has perfect size for a 5-technique or is capable of playing anywhere in a 4-3 front, and he’s pretty athletic for his size. The problem is, he often has relied on beating guys with his athleticism and motor, more so than good technique. At the NFL level, that’s not going to fly. He does have a lot of good things going for him that a good D line coach could work with though. Ward really shined at the senior bowl, possibly in part because an NFL defensive coordinator and former defensive line coach Rod Marinelli got ahold of him.
How he Fits (or doesn’t) with the Steelers
When you look at Ward, he looks like a Steelers defensive end. Ward stands 6’5″ weighs 297 pounds, and has nearly 34″ arms. Compare that to Cam Heyward’s (6’5″ – 294 – 34.25″) and Stephon Tuitt’s (6’5″ – 304 – 34.75″) rookie weigh-ins and you can see he fits the mold.
Word is that Mike Tomlin spent a lot of time around the defensive lineman at the senior bowl, and when asked at the combine, Ward himself admitted that Mike Tomlin seemed to spend a lot of time watching, and enthusiastically barking at him during drills to pump him up.
He could do a lot of things for the Steelers. I believe Mike Tomlin wants a defensive end that can back up Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, but also has the versatility to play inside or outside when the team has 4 down lineman. I believe Ward can do that, and could successfully rush the passer from any position. His quickness, effort, and athleticism would be all be plusses when he subs into a game to give the starters a breather, against tired offensive lineman.
I’ve seen Jihad projected to go as high as the second round, and I could certainly see that happening; especially because I think that you could find a spot for him in just about any scheme. That being said, there is a ton of talent at defensive line in this draft and someone is going to fall. Ward has an impressive skillset but he is definitely still a project that will take some time to become a full-time starter (if at all).
Draft Range Prediction
Mid-2nd to Late-3rd Round