Denzel Ward
refer to caption
Ward in 2021
No. 21 – Cleveland Browns
Position:Cornerback
Personal information
Born: (1997-04-28) April 28, 1997 (age 27)
Macedonia, Ohio, U.S.
Height:5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight:190 lb (86 kg)
Career information
High school:Nordonia
(Macedonia, Ohio)
College:Ohio State (2015–2017)
NFL draft:2018 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4
Career history
Roster status:Active
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 2023
Total tackles:273
Sacks:0.5
Forced fumbles:3
Fumble recoveries:5
Pass deflections:76
Interceptions:15
Defensive touchdowns:4
Player stats at PFR

Denzel Nehemiah Ward (born April 28, 1997) is an American football cornerback for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Early years

Ward attended Nordonia High School in Macedonia, Ohio.[1] He played cornerback and wide receiver for the Knights football team. He also played basketball and ran track. As a senior at the Division 1 region 1 finals, he ran a personal best time of 10.49 seconds in the 100 meters, placing 1st. His personal best in the 200 meters is 21.38 seconds, in which he placed third at the state championships. He committed to Ohio State University to play college football.[2]

College career

Ward attended and played college football at Ohio State under head coach Urban Meyer.[3] As a true freshman at Ohio State in 2015, Ward played in 12 games, recording seven tackles.[4][5] As a sophomore in 2016, he played in all 13 games and had 23 tackles. Ward became a starter as a junior in 2017.[6][7] Entering the 2018 NFL draft, Ward decided not to play in the 2017 Cotton Bowl.[8]

College statistics

Ohio State Buckeyes
Year GP Tackles Interceptions
Total Solo Ast Sck SFTY PDef Int Yds Avg Lng TDs
2015 11 7 5 2 0.0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0
2016 13 23 12 11 0.0 0 9 0 0 0.0 0 0
2017 13 37 30 7 0.0 0 15 2 0 0.0 0 0
Total 37 67 47 20 0.0 0 24 2 0 0.0 0 0
Source: OhioStateBuckeyes.com

Professional career

Pre-draft

On December 29, 2017, Ward released an official statement through his Twitter account announcing his decision to forgo his senior season and enter the 2018 NFL Draft. Ward also decided to skip the Cotton Bowl Classic.[9] Ward attended the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and completed the majority of combine drills, but opted to skip the short shuttle and three-cone drill. His overall performance impressed scouts and helped solidify his position as the top cornerback prospect. Ward tied for first, among all players, in the 40-yard dash (4.32s) and his broad jump (11'4") was the best among all players, regardless of position.[10] He also tied for second in the vertical jump (39") among his position group and tied for eighth in the bench press (16 reps) among cornerbacks who participated.[11]

External videos
video icon Denzel Ward's NFL Combine Workout
video icon Denzel Ward's 40-yard dash

Ward attended pre-draft visits with multiple teams, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and San Francisco 49ers.[12][13] At the conclusion of the pre-draft process, Ward was projected to be a top ten pick by NFL draft experts and scouts. He was ranked as the top cornerback prospect in the draft by Sports Illustrated and NFL analyst Mike Mayock and was ranked as the second best cornerback by DraftScout.com.[14][15]

Pre-draft measurables
Height Weight Arm length Hand span 40-yard dash 10-yard split 20-yard split Vertical jump Broad jump Bench press
5 ft 10+78 in
(1.80 m)
183 lb
(83 kg)
31+14 in
(0.79 m)
8+34 in
(0.22 m)
4.32 s 1.47 s 2.48 s 39 in
(0.99 m)
11 ft 4 in
(3.45 m)
16 reps
All values from NFL Combine[16][17]
External videos
video icon Browns draft Denzel Ward 4th overall
video icon NFL Draft Profile: Denzel Ward

2018

The Browns selected Ward in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft.[18] Ward was the first defensive back drafted in 2018 and became the highest selected cornerback from Ohio State since Shawn Springs, who was selected third overall in the 1997 NFL draft.[19] On July 24, 2018, the Browns signed Ward to a fully guaranteed four-year, $29.16 million contract that includes a signing bonus of $19.29 million.[20][21]

WArd in 2018

Ward entered training camp slated as the No. 1 starting cornerback on the depth chart after the departures of Jason McCourty and Jamar Taylor. Head coach Hue Jackson named Ward the starting cornerback to begin the regular season, alongside Terrance Mitchell.[22]

He made his professional regular season debut and first career start in the Browns' season-opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers and recorded six combined tackles, broke up three passes, and made two interceptions during their 21–21 tie. Ward made his first career interception off a pass attempt by Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, that was originally intended for wide receiver Antonio Brown, in the first quarter.[23] On October 7, 2018, Ward recorded five combined tackles, tied his season-high of three pass deflections, made one interception, and a blocked field goal in a 12–9 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens. His performance earned him AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.[24] Overall, he finished his rookie season with 53 tackles, three interceptions, 11 pass deflections, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries in 13 games, of which he started 12.[25] He was named to the Pro Bowl and the NFL All-Rookie Team.[26][27]

2019

In week 14 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Ward recorded his first interception of the season off a pass thrown by Andy Dalton and returned it for a 61 yard touchdown during the 27–19 win.[28]

2020

In Week 4 against the Dallas Cowboys, Ward recorded his first interception of the season off a pass thrown by Dak Prescott late in the fourth quarter to seal a 49–38 victory for the Browns.[29] In Week 11 against the Philadelphia Eagles, Ward recorded 4 pass deflections and an interception late in the fourth quarter off a pass thrown by Carson Wentz to help secure the 22–17 victory for the Browns.[30] Ward was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list by the Browns on December 31, 2020,[31] and activated on January 13, 2021.[32]

2021

The Browns exercised Ward's fifth-year option on April 23, 2021,[33] which guarantees a salary of $13.29 million for the 2022 season.[34]

Ward had a very productive season for the Browns, posting 43 tackles, 10 pass deflections, while also having 3 interceptions, one being a pick-six against the Bengals in Week 9, which went for 99 yards. He was named to the 2022 Pro Bowl, his second selection of his career.

2022

On April 18, 2022, the Browns signed Ward to a five-year contract extension worth $100.5 million, with $71.25 million guaranteed. The extension made Ward the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history.[35] In Week 13 Ward recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown against the Houston Texans.[36]

NFL career statistics

Legend
Led the league
Bold Career high

Regular season

Year Team Games Tackles Interceptions Fumbles
G GS Comb Total Ast Sack PD Int Yds Avg Lng TD FF FR Yds TD
2018 CLE 13 12 53 41 12 0.0 11 3 26 8.7 26 0 1 2 29 0
2019 CLE 12 12 44 38 6 0.0 11 2 61 30.5 61 1 0 1 0 0
2020 CLE 12 12 46 38 8 0.0 18 2 0 0.0 0 0 1 0 0 0
2021 CLE 15 15 43 34 9 0.5 10 3 103 34.3 99 1 0 0 0 0
2022 CLE 14 14 53 42 11 0.0 15 3 0 0.0 0 0 0 2 4 2
2023 CLE 13 11 34 30 4 0.0 11 2 20 10.0 20 0 1 0 0 0
Total 79 76 273 223 50 0.5 76 15 210 14.0 99 2 3 5 33 2

Postseason

Year Team Games Tackles Interceptions Fumbles
GP GS Comb Solo Ast Sack PD Int Yds Avg Lng TD FF FR Yds TD
2020 CLE 1 1 3 3 0 0.0 0 0 0 0
2023 CLE 1 1 2 2 0 0.0 1 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Career 2 2 5 5 0 0.0 1 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Awards

References

  1. ^ Rozboril, Robert (July 19, 2014). "Nordonia WR Denzel Ward is bound for Ohio State, has sights set on higher goals: 31 in 31 football series". Cleveland.com. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  2. ^ Beaven, Michael (June 19, 2014). "Nordonia's Denzel Ward commits to play football at Ohio State". Ohio.com. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
  3. ^ "Denzel Ward College Stats". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  4. ^ Lesmerises, Doug (March 31, 2016). "Denzel Ward is Ohio State's fastest player, but is that enough to start for the Buckeyes?". Cleveland.com. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  5. ^ Jablonski, David (March 28, 2016). "Ohio State football: Speedy CB Ward ready to emerge". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  6. ^ Landis, Bill (March 21, 2017). "Is Denzel Ward, now Ohio State's top corner, actually as good as Marshon Lattimore?". Cleveland.com. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  7. ^ Lesmerises, Doug (August 19, 2017). "The top 50 Ohio State football players for 2017: No. 10, CB Denzel Ward". Cleveland.com. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  8. ^ Lesmerises, Doug (December 29, 2017). "Denzel Ward, Ohio State cornerback and likely first-round pick, sitting out Cotton Bowl". Cleveland.com.
  9. ^ Myers, Jacob (December 29, 2017). "Football: Denzel Ward declares for NFL draft, forgoes senior season and sits out Cotton Bowl". thelantern.com. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  10. ^ Chassen, Alexis (September 9, 2018). "Meet the Browns' Denzel Ward, the next great NFL DB out of Ohio State". sbnation.com. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  11. ^ "NFL.com: 2018 NFL Combine: Top Performers". NFL.com. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  12. ^ Hope, Dan (April 5, 2018). "Denzel Ward set to visit five teams with top-12 picks, including Cleveland Browns, per report". Eleven Warriors. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  13. ^ Arcia, Gil (April 15, 2018). "Denzel Ward visiting the Bucs this week". bucsnation.com. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  14. ^ "The 2018 NFL Draft Big Board, Vol. 2". Sprts Illustrated. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  15. ^ Mayock, Mike (April 20, 2018). "Mike Mayock's 2018 NFL Draft position rankings 3.0". NFL.com. Archived from the original on April 22, 2018. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  16. ^ "NFL Draft Prospect Profile - Denzel Ward". NFL.com. March 1, 2018. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  17. ^ "Ohio State CB Denzel Ward: 2018 NFL Draft Scout Player Profile". NFLDraftScout.com. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  18. ^ Sessler, Marc (April 26, 2018). "Browns choose CB Denzel Ward with No. 4 selection". NFL.com.
  19. ^ "Ohio State Drafted Players". pro-football-reference.com. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  20. ^ Cabot, Mary Kay (July 25, 2018). "No. 4 pick Denzel Ward signs his Browns rookie contract worth about $29.2 million". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved July 26, 2018.
  21. ^ "Spotrac.com: Denzel Ward contract". Spotrac.com. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  22. ^ Edwards, Josh (September 2, 2018). "Sunday's Browns 53-Man Roster". 247sports.com. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  23. ^ Glasier, David (September 9, 2018). "Denzel Ward excels in Browns tie with Steelers". The News-Herald. Archived from the original on October 3, 2018. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  24. ^ Maya, Adam (October 10, 2018). "Drew Brees, Isaiah Crowell among Players of the Week". NFL.com. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  25. ^ "Denzel Ward 2018 Game Log". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  26. ^ "2018 NFL Pro Bowlers". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  27. ^ "2018 NFL All-Rookie Team". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  28. ^ "Browns stay in playoff hunt, ground out 27-19 win over Cincy". www.espn.com. December 8, 2019. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  29. ^ "Cleveland Browns at Dallas Cowboys - October 4th, 2020". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
  30. ^ "Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns - November 22nd". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  31. ^ "Browns make roster moves". ClevelandBrowns.com. December 31, 2020. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  32. ^ "Browns activate CBs Denzel Ward, Kevin Johnson". ClevelandBrowns.com. January 13, 2021. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  33. ^ Gribble, Andrew (April 23, 2021). "Browns exercise 5th-year contract options for Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward". ClevelandBrowns.com. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
  34. ^ "Denzel Ward hopes for contract extension, long career in Cleveland". June 15, 2021.
  35. ^ Simmons, Myles (April 18, 2022). "Browns, Denzel Ward agree to five-year contract extension". ProFootballTalk. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  36. ^ Simmons, Myles. "Denzel Ward fumble recovery for touchdown gives Browns 14-5 lead". Pro Football Talk. Retrieved December 4, 2022.