Todd McShay high on versatile Jihad Ward after Senior Bowl showing
Jihad Ward didn’t come into the Senior Bowl with a four-year pedigree and gaudy numbers.
The Illinois defensive lineman came into Alabama last week as still a relative unknown. He was a high school wide receiver who went to junior college and finished his career starting on the Illini defensive line, where he also shifted positions. Once a defensive end, the 6-5, 296-pound senior moved to defensive tackle in the middle of the season.
In Alabama, scouts got an up-close look at why the All-B1G honorable mention lineman was so versatile. One of those who became a believer was NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay.
“I think he fits best there but he brings versatility as someone who can play end and tackle,” McShay said of Ward on the ESPN First Draft podcast. “He was a guy that came out of school and went the JUCO route initially. He wasn’t highly recruited and he really came on these last two years.
“Big, athletic, and I think he’s got a chance to go in the day two range.”
That would certainly be a major step up for a guy that was projected by many as a late-round flier. The physically-imposing Ward did deliver many moments during Senior Bowl practice that turned heads.
In one-on-one matchups, he proved a difficult matchup:
Odd name, but Jihad Ward can play. pic.twitter.com/YhORNTT5wY
— Emmanual Benton (@Manny_PPI) January 27, 2016
And when he had to deal with a tight end and a tackle blocking him at the line of scrimmage, Ward still showed an ability to get to the ball-carrier:
— IDthe22 (@idthe22) January 27, 2016
But Ward might get the most attention during pre-draft workouts in which he can show off raw athleticism that’s rarely found in a defensive tackle:
— Dustin Laratonda (@DaBigEasy24) January 27, 2016
Ward had Senior Bowl conversations with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears and others, all of whom are likely trying to learn as much as possible about the late-blooming defensive lineman.
If McShay’s evaluation is any indication, someone will be willing to take a chance on Ward before the later rounds.