The Road to 53: S Jay Ward Is a Jack of All Trades

Vikings Reach 4-Year Contract Agreement with Their Fourth-Round Pick
Jan 13, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers cornerback Jay Ward (16) against the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings roster is just about set for training camp this summer, and with that, the offseason moves past the roster construction phase and into the roster evaluation phase. As we get our first glimpses of the Vikings roster in action throughout the summer, it’s time to evaluate which players should be candidates to make the final 53-man roster during training camp. Today, we continue the “Road to 53” by discussing S Jay Ward.


S Jay Ward
Dec 3, 2022; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Branson Robinson (22) is hit by LSU Tigers safety Jay Ward (5) during the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

During his high school years at Colquitt County High, Jay Ward was considered one of the very best cornerbacks in the country. 24/7 Sports listed him as a four-star recruit and ranked him as the 29th-best corner in high school football.

Following his strong high school career in which he was named to the Georgia 7A All-State team during his senior season, Ward committed to LSU for 2019. During that historic 2019 season, Ward appeared in five games for the Tigers, including their 63-28 victory over Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl prior to their dominant victory over Clemson in the national championship.

After their success in 2019, LSU took a step backward in 2020, but it allowed Ward to break into the lineup. He appeared in eight of LSU’s 10 games that season, recording 29 tackles, 6 passes defended, 3 interceptions, and a forced fumble. The Tigers went just 5-5 during the regular season, though, and they missed out on a bowl game appearance for the first time since 1999.

2021 saw Ward start 11 games for LSU, but once again, the team overall struggled to a 6-7 finish. However, the defensive back continued to flash some serious playmaking ability, recording a pair of interceptions.

In his senior season, Ward was a crucial part of a defense that finally came together and helped LSU go 10-4, including a 63-7 victory over Purdue in the Citrus Bowl. The defensive group allowed just 22.5 points per game in the season, holding opponents to 20 or fewer points in eight of their 14 games. Ward produced a total of 59 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, an interception, and a fumble recovery.

After his collegiate career during which he appeared in 37 games for the Tigers, Ward was selected in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings with the 134th overall pick.

How He Can Impact the 2023 Vikings

Jan 2, 2023; Orlando, FL, USA; LSU Tigers safety Jay Ward (5) breaks up a pass to Purdue Boilermakers wide receiver Mershawn Rice (9) during the first half at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Ward’s greatest strength on a defense is his versatility. The defensive back is technically listed as a safety, but he can do so much more on the field than that. Over the course of his four years at LSU, Ward played 300+ snaps in the box, at free safety, in the slot, and at outside corner.

Considering the Vikings have great uncertainty as to how their depth chart will shake out in the secondary, this gives Ward an advantage that others don’t have on the team. He has the ability to play multiple positions, and he will get multiple opportunities to make an impact.

Obstacles in His Way

Oct 1, 2022; Auburn, Alabama, USA; LSU Tigers safety Jay Ward (5) tackles Auburn Tigers running back Tank Bigsby (4) during the first quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest problem with Ward is that while he can play multiple positions, he isn’t truly elite at any of them. He doesn’t have a size advantage in the box, his coverage skills aren’t elite, and he isn’t the fastest player at free safety with his 4.55 40. The defensive back will get multiple chances to stand out, but the question remains as to whether or not he can actually stand out.

The Prediction

Apr 17, 2021; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers cornerback Jay Ward (5) tackles LSU Tigers running back Tyrion Davis-Price (3) during the first half of the annual Purple and White spring game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, it would be surprising to see Ward play a ton of defensive snaps during his rookie season, even with the inexperience on the roster across the secondary. Players like Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans certainly have the advantage at corner while Harrison Smith has his spot locked up at strong safety while Lewis Cine will get first chances at free safety.

However, he should absolutely make the final 53-man roster, especially considering how many 2022 rookies made the roster last season. Ward will be one of the top reserves on Minnesota’s defense.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.