Every year the discussion pops up. Who in college football is the real Defensive Back University (DBU)? It’s a difficult discussion. LSU has what is probably the best case between both safety and cornerback. Florida tries to claim it for some reason, but they fall short. Alabama has produced as much NFL talent as any other college, and there is no shortage in the secondary, but LSU still probably gets the nod. The best case against LSU sits in Columbus, Ohio. And if we’re talking about simply cornerbacks, Ohio State takes every other school to task. And now, their most recent phenom opted out of the 2020 season. So what is Shaun Wade’s NFL Draft stock like after his declaration?
Evaluation vs Valuation: Shaun Wade’s NFL Draft conundrum
Positional value: Where does slot cornerback fall in the value scale?
Teams play from either nickel or dime defense around 70% of the time at the NFL level. Although we don’t know for sure at this point, it’s realistic to expect that Wade returned to school for his senior season so he could focus his efforts on playing as an outside cornerback and showcase those attributes. Unfortunately, due to the current circumstances that wasn’t able to come to fruition.
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So this brings up multiple questions with respect to Wade. The first question is simple, does he have the frame and game to play on the outside? The second question is more complex, should a team automatically throw him on the outside if they deem him worthy of a first-round selection? The third question is the most simple, is Wade worth a first-round pick? And the fourth is where does he stack up with Damon Arnette, Jeffrey Okudah, Denzel Ward, and Marshon Lattimore of recent years.
At a listed 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, Wade has about as desirable a set of physical attributes as you could ask for, even though a few more pounds of muscle couldn’t hurt. And he certainly doesn’t lack the functional strength necessary to play on the line of scrimmage and bang around with X receivers.
The Ohio State program has developed some of the most well-rounded draft prospects in recent years at multiple position groups, and Wade is no exception at cornerback. He can stick a limb out and punch a receiver in the chest with one arm, get his other hand to the hip and carry wherever he’s asked.
Speed isn’t an issue either. He can push vertically with most receivers, and he played quite a bit of trail technique from the slot with safety help over top, which can be tricky, as I described with Washington’s Elijah Molden. Physically, Wade has it all.
Should a team move him outside?
No. Now, before you jump on me about the value difference, read this. Simply remain in the nickel on almost every single snap defensively if Wade is your nickel corner because the only thing keeping this young man from being a box safety is 10 pounds and an ability to cover that most couldn’t dream of.
Watching this young man play as a disciplined gap defender who will drive downhill and plug the C gap at the line is a thing of beauty. On top of that, he can and does often bang around with tight ends, stacking them against the run and disengaging without retreating. And he rarely falls off a tackle attempt.
And he’s an outstanding blitzer from the slot position as well. He does a great job of disguising the blitz, and he does a great job working with a defensive end to loop inside and run free toward the quarterback.
He’s a legitimate chess piece defensively. If you want him to play on the outside and attempt to lock down a team’s number one or two receiver, you can do it. But if you want to, you can have a lot of fun moving this young man around defensively, using him in an almost safety role. He’ll just cover like a top cornerback too.
Is Wade worth a first-round pick?
Yes. Take him in the top 20 and don’t look back.
Where does Wade stack up with recent top Buckeye’s picks?
This is a bit more difficult than I originally anticipated. Okudah is on a different level. He was one of the most solid players I’ve ever watched. He simply never made mistakes, and he had the athleticism to hold up to anyone. Lattimore is the better pure cornerback who was more athletic overall than Wade. Ward was and is a great outside cornerback, but Wade is such a fantastic chess piece. He still needs to work to remain more patient at times in man coverage, but he is a stud in nearly every other aspect of the game. As a prospect, he blows Arnette out of the water.