Find somebody that loves you as much as Ohio State loves producing first-round cornerbacks in the NFL Draft — and Shaun Wade could be their next. Since the 2016 NFL Draft, the Buckeyes boast six in the last five drafts. Although we’ve seen mixed results from the talent once they ascend to the NFL level, it’s difficult to make a case for a more prolific school at developing high-end talent in the secondary. Wade is Ohio State’s next NFL Draft darling.
Shaun Wade NFL Draft Profile
Weight: 195 pounds
School: Ohio State
Year: Redshirt Junior
Wade is an NFL Draft prospect that high school recruiting rankers can hang their hat on. During the recruiting process, he was a consensus five-star recruit among the three big recruiting sites and a top-25 overall recruit in all three as well. He was named the 2017 Lockheed Martin defensive back of the year after the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. His Trinity Christian Academy squad ran the table in his high school career, winning four straight state titles in Florida.
He was seemingly destined for greatness. He found playing time as a redshirt freshman in a secondary that boasted Kendall Sheffield, Jeffrey Okudah, and Damon Arnette is a testament to his ability and work ethic. It didn’t take long into his redshirt sophomore season for the draft hype to get to the heights of first-round “lock” as a slot cornerback that the masses believed could transition to the outside.
When Wade returned to Ohio State for his redshirt junior season, presumably, it was to get that much-needed experience on the outside. For a while, that plan was put in jeopardy by the ongoing worldwide circumstances. Wade opted out to focus on the NFL Draft, but luckily for the Buckeyes and himself, he didn’t sign with an agent and was then able to opt back in alongside offensive guard Wyatt Davis when the Big Ten decided to play a season after all.
Wade underwhelms again in win versus Indiana, hurting NFL Draft stock
The Penn State game was forgivable, given the two big catches that Wade surrendered took outstanding individual efforts by Nittany Lions wide receiver Jahan Dotson. However, Wade’s issues competing at the catch point are starting to become a trend, and Indiana receiver Ty Fryfogle took advantage of this on a back-shoulder fade from the slot early in the game.
Wade’s issues aren’t just at the catch point. He’s continued to look impatient at the line of scrimmage, particularly when he’s playing man-to-man with a single safety over the top. In that Cover 1 look, the cornerback will maintain outside leverage and funnel any type of vertical stem toward that safety. Wade is struggling to trust his athleticism, and will dart toward the sideline when receivers jab to his outside shoulder, which opens up a clean release inside, creating separation.
Unless his play improves drastically throughout the rest of the season and into what will most likely be a College Football Playoff bid, it’d be surprising to see Shaun Wade go before day two of the NFL Draft.
Wade not tested in 49-27 rout of Rutgers
There is not much to report in regards to Shaun Wade during the Rutgers game. Although the Scarlet Knights threw the ball 49 times, there weren’t many opportunities for the future NFL Draft pick to show his skillset on the broadcast. There weren’t many passes attempted toward the numbers, and Wade wasn’t involved much in turn.
But there certainly feels like a difference between Wade’s 2019 and his 2020, at least from the broadcast angle. The once fierce competitor who flew around and plugged the c-gap from the slot is now on the outside seemingly making business decisions. There were a few instances where he half-attempted to slip blocks and make a play on the ball carrier, but the other half of him went out of his way to avoid contact from a blocker or from the pile. If Wade wants to be considered a first-round pick come April, he’ll need to turn up the heat and show why people were so excited to see him transition to the outside.
He wasn’t asked to play at the line of scrimmage, which is what we really come for when we watch Wade. We know that he can play 7-10 yards off the ball and adequately mirror and match receivers. His issues against Penn State stemmed from impatience at the line and being beat at the catch point. Hopefully, we see more of him up tight in future outings.
Shaun Wade struggles at line of scrimmage in win versus rival Penn State
Wade struggled on Saturday night against the Penn State Nittany Lions, and those struggles should concern the NFL when projecting him at the next level. With his size, speed and fluidity, there is still a ton to like in his game. But his performance in press coverage has been underwhelming to say the least since his switch to the outside. The unfortunate thing about his performance against PSU was he had multiple issues throughout the game.
Wade’s fourth quarter will obviously be the headline for his poor performance, but the real issues started long before that. Even in RPO opportunities and throws to the other side of the field, there were multiple examples of Wade being impatient at the line and leveraging toward the sideline as receivers released out and snapped back in on slants. He needs to learn to trust his athleticism to carry vertically.
The biggest issue with this performance is that it’s reminiscent of a golfer having a two-way miss off the tee. When issues are layered, they become more difficult to attack and improve upon. His other struggle, aside from his impatience at the line, was his play at the catch point. That same player that in 2019 was flying around and really hitting people looked passive at the top of routes and at the catch point, where he was bullied by receiver Jahan Dotson twice (both on incredible individual catches by Dotson).
Shaun Wade untested in 2020 season debut against Nebraska
Wade’s first performance playing on the outside went as one would expect for a prospect who’s garnered first-round hype since during the 2019 campaign. He was outstanding. Now, unfortunately, there weren’t many opportunities to see how he looked in press man, given he aligned 8-10 yards off the ball most of the contest. However, in the few instances that he was asked to step up and play at the line of scrimmage, he looked comfortable in doing so.
As for how he looked when the ball was thrown his way, you’ll need to wait until next week to find out more, if it happens then. His general area was only targeted one time in the game, and it came when he was in zone coverage.
It’s tough to tell from the broadcast and replay of the broadcast because we can’t see the whole field, but it looked like the Buckeyes were in a cover 3 variation. He was carrying the number 1 receiver vertically and when the receiver broke toward the post, Wade’s eyes saw through number 1 to the second receiver and through to the quarterback for his intentions.
The number 2 receiver, the Nebraska tight end, ran a wheel route and as the outside receiver broke in, Wade jumped on the wheel route and became the indented receiver, jumping in front of the tight end and just narrowly missing out on an interception in his only target of the game. I’m unsure that they looked in his general direction otherwise. Wade looked fluid in his transitions and explosive when he planted and drove to mirror in coverage.
How could 2020 affect Wade’s draft value?
The Big Ten deciding to play an all-conference schedule could propel Wade to the CB1 position in the draft, and a top-10 pick come April. If he widens out and begins covering the best of the best in the conference on the outside at the level he did from the slot, it’s difficult to see a world where evaluators look at the evidence they have from college and the pedigree of his high school recruitment status and not view him as a blue-chip prospect.
And that value comes from him choosing Ohio State and having to take his lumps as a young buck behind the more experienced talent. That kept him on the inside, widened his responsibilities, and showed exactly what he could do as a football player and not simply as a cornerback.
But on the outside, expect a bit of a mix between Arnette and Okudah, just in a leaner, more athletic package. Wade has a dog mentality, and his ability to play against the run and as a blitzer will make him a chess piece on defense at the next level. The hope is that we still see some of the fun blitzes and matchups against guys like Pat Freiremuth of Penn State, and they don’t simply stick him on the outside. The most interesting part of his evaluation will be seeing how he stacks up at the line of scrimmage in press coverage. I expect with his length and physicality, he’ll be a menace.
Shaun Wade NFL Draft best fits
There’s not a team in existence that couldn’t use more cornerbacks on their roster. And with Wade’s versatility, from plugging the C gap against the run to playing outside corner to spinning back and playing safety angles like a natural, his fits are literally all 32 NFL franchises. Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys have a massive need for bodies with circulating blood in the secondary, and if they aren’t the division winners at the end of 2020, they’ll probably sniff the top-10 and would be a great fit. Other ideal NFL draft fits for Shaun Wade could be the Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, and San Francisco 49ers.