INDIANAPOLIS -- Denzel Ward did everything he could to leave no doubt about his billing by many as this year's top cornerback prospect.
The former Ohio State playmaker ran a blazing 4.32-second 40-yard dash and impressed in a handful of other drills Monday, the final day of the 2018 NFL Combine. He came into the annual scouting event perceived by many to be the top available cornerback, and he did little to dispel the belief he could be the latest Buckeye defensive back to make an immediate impact in the NFL.
Because of a tweaked ankle, Ward declined to participate in the on-field drills but will go through those exercises at Ohio State's Pro Day, an event that annually draws hundreds of scouts to get one last look at the haul of Buckeyes poised to break into the NFL.
Ward, if all of the mock drafts are accurate, is positioned to be the first off the board in 2018, both from Ohio State and at his position.
"I'm very excited. That's what kind of led to my reasoning of leaving early," Ward, who hails from nearby Macedonia, said Sunday. "I wanted to kind of uphold that tradition of being that next guy to be a first-round draft pick from Ohio State."
Ward's status as a top-ranked cornerback goes beyond speed, of course. After waiting his turn behind a slew of defensive backs who are now in the NFL, Ward made the most of his first season as a full-time starter, earning first-team All-American honors to go along with a slew of others.
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein writes Ward has "supreme athletic ability" and "tremendously gifted footwork" that make many believe he could be a top-10 selection. If that happens, it'd mark the third straight year an Ohio State cornerback went in the top half of the first round and he'd be the fourth Buckeye corner in the last three years to go in the first round.
Last year's top Buckeye cornerback, Marshon Lattimore, won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after a breakout season with the Saints.
"The only question about him is how light and lean he is," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said, referring to Ward's 5-foot-10, 191-pound frame. "He tackles. I'm not questioning his physicality, just potential durability over time. But I think he's going to be a Top 10 pick more than a top 15 pick. But a lot of that depends on how many quarterbacks go early."
The Browns haven't been linked to Ward in early mock drafts, but plenty can change between now and late April. Cleveland is looking to shore up its defensive backfield after a 2017 season that ended with the Browns ranked as one of the worst pass defenses.
Ward's ready for whatever challenge lies ahead, wherever it may be.
"I'm a very humble kid," Ward said, "but though I'm humble, I'm very confident in who I am as a man and as a player."