Some would say that Shaun Wade from Ohio State is already the top cornerback in the 2021 NFL Draft. Others would say that he has some work cut out for himself to be considered that. Despite it already being July, there’s going to be some serious competition for that top cornerback spot in the draft.
Patrick Surtain from Alabama and Caleb Farley from Virginia Tech are two serious contenders. That doesn’t mean Shaun Wade can’t become a true number one cornerback or doesn’t have the ability to become one. In fact, it’s the opposite. Shaun Wade has all of the tools and potential to be just that.
Despite only playing 12 snaps in 2019 (per Pro Football Focus) on the outside, he brought a physical presence to the Buckeyes’ defense. That presence was primarily played in the slot, as Wade was stuck in the middle of Damon Arnette and Jeffrey Okudah. Both were first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft.
With that experience playing primarily in the slot, there’s no reason to have any doubts about the physical tools that Wade possesses. This upcoming season, he’ll have a chance to sharpen his tools and prove that he belongs on the outside as a true number one cornerback. Let’s jump into some tape and go over the skill-set that Wade brings to the table for the 2021 NFL Draft!
Defeating Blocks to Make the Tackle
Whenever you watch Wade on the field, you’ll notice how quick his feet are. He’s rarely flat footed and tends to buzz his feet when approaching a blocker or ball carrier. Meanwhile, he shows no fear when attacking blockers. During the 2019 season, he had 26 tackles and led all defensive backs on the team with four tackles for loss. Here’s an example of how he defeats a block on a designed wide receiver screen to make the tackle.
On a mission to get to the sideline, you can see above how Wade does just that. In his path was the right tackle, but he does a great job getting through the block with good pad level and he turns his shoulders so the right tackle can’t grab his chest plate. In the process of making his way towards the sideline, Wade is able to secure the tackle.
Silent Assassin when Blitzing
During the season, Wade might have only recorded two sacks, but when you watch him blitz, he’s like a silent assassin. He disguises them well, and quarterbacks seem to struggle to notice when he flies off the edge. Many will think of the hit he had against Trevor Lawrence from the College Football Playoff, but he had a couple of other good ones during the regular season.
Against Michigan State, he’s aligned on the far hash and blitzes right through the B-gap. Before the quarterback can even process the field, he’s met by a flying Wade. This was one of his two sacks from him last season.
Against Cincinnati, Wade didn’t get as easy of a path to the quarterback. On the play above, he’s met by the left tackle and has to lower his pad level and dip his shoulder as he rushes the quarterback. Once the quarterback prepares to throw the ball, he’s met by Wade swiping the ball out of his hand. This type of effort is something defensive coordinators across the NFL are going to love.
Ball Skills Needed to Stop the Opposition
According to Pro Football Focus, Shaun Wade only allowed seven first downs on 241 coverage snaps last season. Using his consistent and fluid footwork and his instinctive ability, Wade was also able to record seven pass deflections and an interception. His ball skills are needed and will be coveted to stop the opposition.
On the play above, you’ll see Shaun Wade aligned in the slot. He gets in the hip pocket of the wide receiver as he runs vertical up the field. Once the ball is thrown, Wade doesn’t turn for the ball. Instead, he trusts his instincts and reads the eyes and hands of the receiver. Knowing the ball is about to be in the hands of the receiver, Wade gets a hand up and is able to deflect the pass before showing the hand-eye coordination needed to come down with the interception.
Lastly, the play above against Northwestern will be considered a pass deflection, but ultimately, Wade does drop the football. Even though he initially trails the receiver, he shows the ability to close quickly. In the process, he makes a solid play on the football and forces Northwestern to go back to the drawing board.
As we enter the 2020 season for college football (presumably), Shaun Wade will get the chance to step up to the plate and prove that he has what it takes to be a starter on the outside at cornerback. Listed at 6’1″ and 195 pounds, he shows great instincts with good footwork and an aggressive side that teams will fall in love with. Over the last two seasons he’s played in 27 games, and despite being a primary nickel back, the time is now for Wade to show that he has true CB1 potential.