Because most rookies don’t get enough credit, we’ll be highlighting some top performances by the NFL’s next generation.
Defense: Week 1
Denzel Ward, DB, Cleveland Browns
When the Browns took Denzel Ward from Ohio State with the fourth overall pick this year, we knew he was an elite defender with speed and precise route coverage. I had him as the top DB on my draft board, so I really like the pick for a Cleveland defense that was middle of the pack last year and has a tremendous young pass rusher in Myles Garrett. With the addition of Ward to lock down the opposing offense’s top targets, the Browns could become a legitimate top ten defense. No, really. You’ll see Ward’s sack totals increase this year as a result, too.
While Ward isn’t a big guy, at 5’11, 185lbs, he more than makes up for it with technique and good hands. In the Browns week one tie with the AFC North Champion Steelers, Ward had six total tackles, three pass deflections and two interceptions. Per Pro Football Focus, Ward was a defensive standout for the Browns on the strength of playing an insane eighty-one snaps and only surrendering six receptions for a total of fifty yards. All while covering Antonio Brown for a good part of the afternoon. That’s a heck of a start for the young man. We’re not the only ones who noticed his performance, either. He’s a nominee for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week Award as well.
Image source: USA Today