SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers selected Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward with the 30th pick in the first round. Ward will likely play in San Francisco's nickel package now and eventually start alongside Eric Reid. Nickels are essentially starters, so Ward will get a chance to pay initial dividends.
Ward played a lot of nickel in college. The MAC is known for wild passing and Ward points out he played against a lot of spread defenses. He should be able to handle the nickel assignments.
Ward can hit. Nickels who can come in and help against the run are extremely valuable.
Ward said he wore a 49ers hat they gave him on his visit (he had eight NFL visits) ever since he got it. He had no reason for it. But said Thursday it “was a good sign.”
Northern Illinois’ school year is over. Ward can join the team immediately in the offseason program.