The Cleveland Browns finally drafted a Buckeye.
Denzel Ward became the latest Ohio State cornerback to be selected early in the first round on Thursday night, when the Browns selected Ward with the No. 4 overall pick.
Ward, a Northeast Ohio native (Macedonia), is the first Buckeye to be drafted by the Browns since Brian Robiskie in 2009.
"It’s been my childhood dream, just to get here to the NFL draft, and to be drafted by the Browns and be able to go back home to my hometown and play there, it’s just a blessing, and I’m just so excited to get there and get to work," Ward said in a conference call with Browns reporters.
A consensus All-American in his lone season as a full-time starter for the Buckeyes, Ward was the first cornerback selected in this year's draft.
He is the third Buckeye in just three years to be selected in the top four picks, joining Joey Bosa (No. 3 to Los Angeles Chargers) and Ezekiel Elliott (No. 4 to Dallas Cowboys) in 2016.
Ward is the third Ohio State cornerback to be a top-15 draft pick in the last three years, joining Eli Apple (No. 10 overall to New York Giants in 2016) and Marshon Lattimore (No. 11 overall to New Orleans Saints in 2017). Gareon Conley was also the No. 24 overall pick by the Oakland Raiders last year, making Ward the fourth first-round cornerback from Ohio State in three years, and the fifth first-round cornerback from the Buckeyes in five years (Bradley Roby, No. 31 overall, Denver Broncos, 2013).
“It’s been my childhood dream, just to get here to the NFL draft, and to be drafted by the Browns and be able to go back home to my hometown and play there, it’s just a blessing, and I’m just so excited to get there and get to work.”– Denzel Ward
Ohio State is the first school to have three first-round cornerbacks in three straight drafts since the Buckeyes previously achieved that feat from 1999-2001, when Antoine Winfield (No. 23, Buffalo Bills, 1999), Ahmed Plummer (No. 24, San Francisco 49ers, 2000) and Nate Clements (No. 21, Buffalo Bills, 2001) were all first-round picks in consecutive years.
Ward is the fifth Ohio State cornerback to be the first cornerback selected in the draft, joining Shawn Springs (No. 3, Seattle Seahawks, 1997), Clements, Malcolm Jenkins (No. 14, New Orleans Saints, 2009) and Lattimore. In total, Ward is the 13th Ohio State defensive back to be selected in the first round since 1997.
Ward wore a purple suit at Thursday night's draft in honor of his father, who died in 2016. Interviewed on NFL Network before the draft, Ward said he wished his father could be there with he and his family, but that he knew his dad would be proud of him.
"I wish that my dad was still alive and he was here to spend this time and this experience with my family and I, but I know he's looking down watching," Ward said. "I'm just excited. I know that I'm making him proud and my family proud."
Ward joins former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick, as one of two players selected by the Browns in the first four picks. Ward told Browns reporters in his conference call that he is looking forward to working with Mayfield despite Mayfield's controversial flag-planting after Oklahoma's win over the Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium last season.
Denzel Ward on Baker Mayfield: "Obviously did not like the planting of the flag at Ohio State, but we have a new mission to accomplish." #Browns— Hayden Grove (@H_Grove) April 27, 2018
Ward should have a chance to immediately become the No. 1 cornerback in a Browns secondary that lacks an established star at the position.
"Denzel Ward's a really good player," Browns general manager John Dorsey said after the pick. "I like the ability of him being able to play in this defense when we need a shutdown corner, because Gregg (Williams, Browns defensive coordinator) really wants some more shutdown corners. He's got the speed, he's got the athleticism, he's got the quickness, he's got the ball skills."