AFC North Top 25: 24th-ranked player

The AFC North blog is continuing its series on the top 25 players in the division with No. 24:


Browns safety

Why Ward is ranked 24th: It was a tough call on whether the division's third-best safety was Ward, the Steelers' Ryan Clark or the Bengals' Reggie Nelson. While Clark is established and Nelson enjoyed a career year in 2011, Ward is primed to have a breakout season. He was considered among the NFL's top 10 safeties in the first half of last season before a sprained right foot sidelined him for the final eight games. The 2010 second-round pick has fully recovered and should be even better in his third season. Ward believes he will be more prepared for this campaign than any previous one (he was a rookie in 2010 and was hurt by the lockout in 2011). A player who loves physical contact, Ward should make a strong impact on the Browns' porous run defense even though he might not match his 123 tackles from his rookie season.