Following in the footsteps of cornerbacks before him, Ohio State junior cornerback Denzel Ward will enter the 2018 NFL Draft, forgoing his final year of eligibility.
Ward made a last-minute decision to sit out the Cotton Bowl and sent out a statement on Twitter that thanked Buckeye Nation for his time at Ohio State.
“I had countless conversations with my coaches about this decision well before the game. Though I was deciding not to participate in the bowl game I did not want to leave my teammates and coaches to pursue my dream just yet,” Ward wrote. “I hope everyone can respect my decision and continue to show support.”
Ohio State had to replace both starting cornerbacks, Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore, from last year’s team because of their early departure for the NFL. Urban Meyer and the defensive coaching staff will be tasked again with replacing a first-round talent on the outside.
Ward has arguably been Ohio State’s best defensive player this season and one of the best at his position in the country. The first-year starter led the team with 17 pass breakups and 20 passes defended, which rank X and X respectively in the NCAA. He also picked off two passes during the 2017 season, including one inside the 5-yard line in the Big Ten championship against Wisconsin.
Ward was named a 2017 first-team All-American by the Associated Press and many other outlets.
Although he wasn’t technically a starter in 2016, Ward played an equal number of snaps as Lattimore and Conley, who were eventually drafted 11th and 24th in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Ward is projected as a consensus first-round pick and is listed as the top cornerback and No. 11 overall prospect by ESPN’s Todd McShay.
Go bucks! pic.twitter.com/DfBOKYQzhO
— Denzel Ward (@Flash_Ward12) December 30, 2017