2021 NFL Draft Prospects: Shaun Wade

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Ohio State’s 6’1″ 195 lb. defensive back, Shaun Wade, is one of the most interesting players in the 2021 NFL Draft. Wade played as a slot cornerback in 2019, earning praise for his performances and being named Third-Team All-Big Ten. In 2020, Wade moved to the boundary and received criticism throughout the year for his play, yet he was a consensus All-American and named First-Team All-Big Ten nonetheless. Opinions on his best position and his draft stock vary widely. Let’s take a look at the tape!

Strengths: Wade presents a solid combination of size and athleticism, as well as very good length for the position. He has flashes of physicality in coverage to compliment those tools. Wade is excellent in run support. He takes good paths to the football, sheds blocks well with good play strength, shows significant effort, and is a reliable tackler and very hard hitter. His penchant for laying heavy hits makes him a threat to force fumbles. Wade is very experienced and battle-tested at multiple positions, having played in the slot in 2019 and on the perimeter in 2020. 

Weaknesses: Wade’s play as a boundary corner in 2020 was disastrous and revealed his significant deficiencies in man-to-man coverage. Wade is way too soft in coverage, giving up too much ground to the receiver, often giving his receiver a sizable cushion in off coverage, which results in easy completions. In press coverage, his jam frequently misses, allowing the receiver to blow right by him. He can also overcommit in these situations, and savvy releases are a big issue for him. On the same token, quick, deceptive route runners easily fool him. His transition quickness and hip fluidity were also exposed this year, which greatly limits his coverage ability. Wade lacks true deep speed to carry vertical routes as well. Wade also needs to be more disruptive at the catch point. 

Bottom Line: I strongly believe that Wade’s best position in the NFL would be at strong safety, where he can actually have a very good career. Wade got torched all year long in 2020 on the perimeter, and it became clear that he is simply not good enough in coverage. By making him transition to strong safety, a team would limit his coverage duties while taking advantage of his strong ability against the run. If he is kept at cornerback, he should be in the slot or preferably in a zone-heavy scheme, but I believe switching him to strong safety would be the right move. 

Draft Projection: Round 3

Grade: 3.4 (indicative of a mid third round grade)

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