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2014 NFL Draft: Jimmie Ward - Don't Believe The Height

Despite the stellar career Jimmie Ward put up at NIU, early critics suggested his stature would have him waiting until the second or third round. Have they started to look past his height and move him up into the first?

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

As men we all know one lie to be universal, and it's that "size doesn't matter" .  We know better.  Of course it does.  We are immediately judged by it if we don't measure up.  Most of the smaller among us wishing they were bigger.  We even know the measurement that's used to determine who's small or not.  It's 6.  That's the bench mark.  Under that you're small.  Over it and you're average or better.

At 5-foot-11  Jimmie Ward of NIU may come in slightly less than average.  But of more importance,  he knows how to use it.

As tomorrow's draft finally arrives,  Ward continues to ascend up the mocks.  In the latest CBS mock draft, 4 of the 5 writers have Ward going in the first round.  With three of them suggesting he'll go at 17 to the Baltimore Ravens.  Looks like the experts are starting to put his on the field play and good pro day results over that missing 1" that would make him seem average.

Why the change of heart about the "smallish" safety from NIU?  Because size doesn't matter.  Now, I'm not saying it isn't nice to have.  But success at the safety position is filled with guys under 6 feet.  Actually,  smaller guys have been more successful as of late, regardless of what the talking heads say about big safeties being the trend.

Simply look at last years All Pro team.  A total of eight safeties were named.   Earl Thomas and Eric Berry were the starters.  Eric Weddle, Kam Chancellor, Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward, Devin McCourty and Antrel Rolle rounded out the bench.  Of the eight, five of these guys are 5'11" or under.  Those being Thomas, Weddle, Byrd, McCourty and Ward.  Berry and Rolle check in at 6' even.  Leaving only Kam Chancellor as that towering safety prototype who's so highly coveted as of late.

How are these guys succeeding at their size?  One attribute they all possess, as well as Ward,  is good arm length.  Each with a measure somewhere between 31" - 32".  The exception is Weddle who has a arm length of 29.5".

The significance of this is that it let's these guys play a little taller than their measured height.  Ward's wingspan of  77 1/8" was the second largest of all the defensive backs at the Senior Bowl.  That roughly translates to the wingspan of someone who's 6'4".  This reach helps him in coverage.  As was evident in his amazing interception in the Toledo game.  So even at 5'11" he's widely considered to be the best cover safety in this years draft.

Something else he has in common with those guys is better than average speed.  Most of them ran very impressive 40 times.

Weddle 4.48

Thomas 4.43

McCourty 4.38

Ward 4.47

The one physical knock on Ward right now is his weight.  Having a slight build and weighing 192 lbs,  he definitely needs to add some bulk.  Not so much to help with his tackling.  Ward has proven his willingness to stick his nose into a pile. But more so to endure the rigors of a long NFL season.

If  you have an issue and it comes down to either your weight or your height,  it better be your weight.   And I see no reason why that with the attention of an NFL conditioning coach Ward can't put some muscle onto that frame.  I'd love to see him come into his rookie camp at close to 200lbs.  Being that he's already a solid tackler, the extra mass could only help.  A few more pounds and a little less submarining the ball carriers at the ankles.

Ward closed out his NIU career with a stellar senior campaign.  Having to sit quietly by in Jordan Lynch's spot light, Ward played the unsung hero from the very start.  His interception in the waning moments of the season opener at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa propelled NIU over the Hawkeyes.   That game had NIU fans believing an undefeated season could possibly happen.  It meant a lot to the program and the fan base.

He made crucial plays continually throughout the year.  Because that's what Jimmie Ward is. He's a playmaker.  And he should know who he'll be making plays for at the next level by the end of the night Thursday.  Not Friday.