The Browns added an impact player on defense Thursday, taking former Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward with the fourth pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Ward, who is widely considered one of the best defensive backs in this year’s class, joins an overhauled Browns secondary.
Cleveland selected Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 pick.
A one-year starter for the Buckeyes, Ward has earned high marks for his “quickness, toughness and ball skills,” according to NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah. Though undersized (5-11, 183 pounds) “he is a very skilled player and I love his competitiveness,” Jeremiah said.
After the departures of teammates and first-round NFL Draft picks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, Ward shined as Ohio State’s premier defender with 37 tackles, two interceptions and 15 pass breakups. The year before, he earned honorable All-Big Ten accolades playing alongside Lattimore, Conley and safety/first-round pick Malik Hooker.
Ward figures to play a key role on a defense that has undergone significant changes since the start of the new league year. The Browns traded for free safety Damarious Randall, signed free agent corners T.J. Carrie (16 starts with Oakland in 2017), E.J. Gaines (36-career starts) and Terrance Mitchell and dealt Jason McCourty to New England.
Ward, who starred at Nordonia High School in Macedonia, could give Cleveland a top-level cornerback for years to come.