Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade is set to become the latest in what has been a long line of elite cornerback prospects to come out of Ohio State. After making the decision not to enter the 2020 NFL Draft, Wade has a chance to lay down a marker for the number cornerback spot in the 2021 NFL Draft. Let’s take a look at what Wade brings to the table.

Recent first-round Ohio State defensive backs

With Jeffrey Okudah set to be selected high in the 2020 draft, Ohio State will have a stretch of four drafts out of the last five where a defensive back was selected in the first round. In 2018, Denzel Ward went fourth overall to the Cleveland Browns. In 2017, three Buckeye defensive backs went in the first round, including cornerback Marshon Lattimore at No. 11 to the New Orleans Saints, safety Malik Hooker at No. 15 to the Indianapolis Colts and finally cornerback Gareon Conley to the Oakland Raiders at No. 24. In 2016, it was Eli Apple taken 10th overall to the New York Giants.

If Wade goes high in the 2021 NFL Draft, that will mark five out of six drafts with a Buckeye defensive back in the first round and possibly four out of six drafts that have seen one go in the top-10.

Shaun Wade’s game

The redshirt sophomore out of Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida played plenty of snaps in the slot for Ohio State last season. However, he was able to move outside as and when the situation called for it. That experience is going to help a lot as Wade will be manning the outside full-time in 2020 as the leader of the Buckeyes’ secondary.

Wade has the talent to be able to stay tight to the receiver he is covering, and having played in the nickel role has meant he has learned how to handle two-way options from his opponents. Playing on the inside has also meant that he has had to provide run support at times. That versatility in his role has seen him demonstrate an ability to be able to quickly turn his hips and run with the receivers or step up and stop the run.

Wade also has good size at 6’1″, 194 pounds, and appears to still have the room to add some bulk during what will likely be his final season at Ohio State.

Wade’s 2019 recap

Wade played in 13 games in 2019, having missed the Michigan game with an undisclosed injury. He totaled 26 tackles, four tackles for a loss, an interception, and two fumble recoveries. Wade’s season came to an abrupt end when he was ejected for targeting in the Fiesta Bowl against Clemson, a call many felt was very questionable at best.

Wade was one of many Ohio State players faced with the decision to leave school early for the draft but decided to return for his redshirt junior year with the Buckeyes. Returning for another year will give Wade a chance to develop two skills. Firstly, as mentioned before, he will get a chance to become the leader of the Ohio State defense with Okudah and Damon Arnette both off to the NFL. Wade will also get the chance to play more on the outside this season, which is going to be huge for his draft stock. That is especially the case with some of the other cornerbacks he’ll be up against in next year’s class, including Alabama’s Patrick Surtain Jr and Florida’s Marco Wilson, who both have more experience lining up on the outside.

What others are saying

In checking out his early top contenders at cornerback, Matt Valdovinos touched on Wade, along with Surtain and Wilson, and said the following:

“Shaun Wade had fans throughout the entirety of the draft community in 2020. The way he played opposite of Okudah was elite for most of the season, and he had a game-defining sack on Trevor Lawrence in the national championship that was egregiously called for targeting. Wade was a force for the Buckeyes all year, particularly around the line of scrimmage. Though his frame is lean, Wade is a sure tackler and great at tracking down ball carriers. I think he’s best suited for a slot role in the NFL, and with the way offenses are lining up, the slot cornerback is as important as any other member of the secondary.”

As Valdovinos notes, the slot cornerback has become just as important a position on the field in the secondary with all the 11-personnel looks NFL teams utilize in today’s game. Gone are the days of the nickel cornerback being meant as some sort of relegation position. It has effectively become a starter position.

Neal Driscoll had Wade as the third cornerback taken in his first 2021 mock draft, going at No. 15 to the Miami Dolphins (via the Houston Texans), behind Patrick Surtain (No. 5) and Georgia’s Tyson Campbell (No. 13).

“The Miami Dolphins get another first-round pick thanks to the Laremy Tunsil/Kenny Stills trade they pulled off before the start of the 2019 season. The Miami Dolphins need to find a cornerback to line up opposite of Xavien Howard. Shaun Wade is a versatile chess piece who could flourish under Brian Flores’ defense.”

Wade may certainly become best suited for the slot when he reaches the NFL, but a strong season on the outside will only entice NFL teams even more. Does he have that top overall cornerback ceiling? Perhaps, but he likely needs an outstanding season if teams are going to rank him above Surtain. However, it certainly is not out of the question that Wade is the second cornerback off the board in 2021 and that he becomes just the latest top-10 cornerback to come out of Columbus, Ohio.