Coming off his first two seasons as a starter for the Ohio State Buckeyes, new Baltimore Ravens defensive back Shaun Wade was considered to be nothing short of a first-round NFL Draft prospect at the cornerback position.
His length and physicality in jamming up slot receivers in the nickel helped him stand out in a star-studded secondary, even with future first-rounders like Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette around him.
While Wade’s transition to outside corner in 2020 (along with a lingering turf toe injury) caused him to decline in productivity, and slip down draft boards as a result, there’s no team that better fits his biggest strengths than the Ravens.
When we look back on this draft four to five years from now, Shaun Wade may just be the hidden gem of this entire class for the purple birds.
The Ravens may have landed a steal in Shaun Wade
For starters, the Ravens won’t need to rely on Wade as an outside cornerback with the superstar starters they have in Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, along with the depth behind them.
To that point, for all intents and purposes, Wade’s skill set is tailor-made for the positions in the secondary where the Ravens could use an added boost.
Tavon Young has, unfortunately, struggled to stay on the field since signing a contract in 2019 that made him the highest-paid nickel corner in football at the time.
That contract is quickly nearing its end, and perhaps that’s the exact reason the Ravens decided to spend a fifth-round pick on Wade.
Wade also brings a much different skill set to that position than Young, thanks to an additional four inches of height and 10+ pounds of build.
He uses that frame to his advantage regularly, which is never more apparent than in his ability to play around the line of scrimmage and in the run game, particularly.
Wade is just as comfortable storming into the backfield of opposing offenses as any secondary player in the 2021 NFL Draft, and if that ability translates to the pros he’ll be a nightmare for offensive coordinators, running backs, and receivers in the flat.
Wade isn’t just a stereotypical box-type secondary player either. He managed to snag six interceptions during his time at Ohio State, most of which were a direct result of his incredible athleticism and ball skills (see at Rutgers in 2019 and at Michigan State in 2020).
If there’s one thing we know about Wink Martindale, it’s that he loves secondary players who can bring that versatile dynamic to the table.
Speaking of versatility, Wade could also be used to add depth behind Chuck Clark at the strong safety position.
Short of being a head-and-shoulders, undeniable upgrade over Tavon Young during training camp at the nickel, Wade will likely have no singular defined position on the Ravens defense in 2021 (and perhaps beyond).
Going back to Martindale, the way he deploys certain players in a hybrid-type of scheme will allow him to move Wade all around the field in ways that best suit his strengths.
Fitting him in at safety will allow the Ravens to maximize those aforementioned strengths, without putting him on an island with opposing cornerbacks or in other scenarios that caused him to fall down draft boards in 2021.
That slip in the draft also means that Wade comes to Baltimore with a massive chip on his shoulder and a whole lot to prove in the process.
After pundits sang his praises following two stellar college seasons, it can be a humbling experience for a player to find themselves as a Day 3 pick by the time they reach the draft.
When asked about his up-and-down 2020 before the draft, Wade said “Things didn’t go my way, but it’s a part of life. Things don’t go a lot of people’s way. You just have to keep on performing and keep on progressing. That’s what I’m doing.”
Luckily for Shaun Wade he’ll have the opportunity to do both of those things, playing under an elite defensive coordinator on one of the best defenses in football for years to come.
The Ravens 2021 draft class is one that’s riddled with potential. From the prospects of Rashod Bateman stepping up as Lamar Jackson’s true No. 1 wide receiver, to the mammoth guard with a taste for squirrel and defensive tackles named Ben Cleveland, right down the list.
When the dust settles, though, and final grades can be given on this draft class, don’t be surprised if Shaun Wade ends up shining the brightest out of all the diamonds in the rough.