The 49ers discovered a new star player in their ranks in 2019.
That player was Jimmie Ward. Underrated would be an understatement for him. Alongside Jaquiski Tartt, the two held it down as a magnificent duo. Despite not having the turnovers to his name, Ward has been an anchor for the 49ers. Unfortunately, it is because of the lack of turnovers that his name isn't attached to "elite" yet.
But turnovers do not depict the skill of a safety. It is all about discipline in coverage, not letting someone get behind you, being a sure tackler, and communicating with your teammates. Ward does that and more. All that he is missing is the turnovers to boost his name. 2022 is primed to be an impressive year from Ward.
In fact, I believe it will be the year that Ward finally makes the Pro Bowl. And I wouldn't rule out an All Pro honor, either. DeMeco Ryans already sees that in Ward and for good reasons.
“I think Jimmie is an All Pro player," said Ryans. "Sometimes those accolades they can't come to everybody. Jimmie just has to remain the course and go play football. Jimmie is one of the best football players I've ever been around. Just his instincts, his feel, playing that safety position. He is a really great football player. Sometimes the accolades, they don't show up.
"He just has to keep doing what he's doing. He's continuing to get better and [Talanoa Hufanga] Huf out there with him. They're both, I feel like both of those guys are working well together and Jimmie will, if it's meant for him to be All Pro, he’ll just keep playing ball. He doesn't have to worry about that status. That'll come. You just play ball, have fun, do what you're supposed to do and those accolades and things will come.”
There are only so many accolades to give out to safety for both All Pro and Pro Bowl. All Pro is the hardest to come by, so a Pro Bowl nod is something that is within reach for Ward. Now, Ward himself claims that ever since he did an interview with my editor Grant Cohn that he is “unlikable” and “the villain” which is why a Pro Bowl appearance looks bleak for him.
On the contrary, I think that makes him stand out more. If it wasn’t for that interview and his continual trash talk on Instagram, he wouldn’t be as popular of a figure as he is now. The turnovers are what attract casual fans as the ones who appreciate and understand the elite level Ward is at now are in the minority. By speaking out more, he becomes a flame and the casual fans are like moths drawn to it. If he can just add some turnovers, it’s a foregone conclusion he’s in it.
I believe he still has a good chance to make it, especially since he is an elite player on a elite playoff contending defense. 2022 is a blank canvas for Ward. He’ll look to fill it with phenomenal play and sharp trash talk.