It seems almost an annual occurrance that Ohio State is putting top cornerback prospect into the NFL. Some of the best DBs to enter the league in recent years have been Buckeyes, and it looked like Shaun Wade would be the next in that line after the 2019 season.
Wade was coming off a second strong season as OSU’s slot corner and was expected to transition to the outside for his junior season in 2020. He was also expected to be the top — or one of the top — cornerback prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft following a successful transition.
Unfortunately for Wade, things didn’t work out that way, and Wade’s junior season was a significant disappointment. That poor play has many asking whether he is an outside or slot corner, or even a cornerback at all in the NFL.
The New York Giants have invested heavily in the cornerback position of late, but still have questions in need of answers. Considering their defense improvements were largely driven by their secondary in 2020, finding those answers could well be a priority for the team.
While Wade might not be an outside corner in the NFL, does his past success suggest a skill set the Giants could use?
Prospect: Shaun Wade
Games Watched: vs. Northwestern (2019), vs. Clemson (2019), vs. Clemson (2020), vs. Alabama (2020)
Games Played: 32
Tackles For a loss: 5.0
Forced Fumbles: 3
Passes Defensed: 18
Games Played: 8
Tackles For a loss: 1.0
Forced Fumbles: 0
Passes Defensed: 4
Best: Awareness, physicality, competitive toughness, zone coverage.
Worst: Man coverage, lower body fluidity, foot quickness
Projection: A primary nickel defender in a zone defense.
Ohio State junior Shuan Wade is an experienced cornerback with the size and length the NFL looks for in its defensive back prospects.
Wade has aligned as a slot defender and outside cornerback in Ohio State’s defense. He first played the slot corner position as a freshman and sophomore before transitioning to the outside as a junior in 2020. Wade has played in both man and zone concepts in OSU’s defensive scheme, showing discipline, patience, and awareness in both schemes.
Wade quickly gets good depth in his zone drops and shows very good awareness of the play as a zone defender. He is disciplined in his assignments, picking up and passing off receivers without being drawn out of position. Wade also does a good job of reading the quarterback’s eyes and receiver’s body language to lead him to the catch point. Wade has a good closing burst on the ball, and is able to use his length to be disruptive at the catch point.
He is also a reliable run defender, showing good competitive toughness to take on blockers and set a firm edge in run support. Wade is unafraid of contact and is a willing tackler in the run game. He generally takes good angles to the ball and tackles with solid form, both hitting hard and wrapping up to bring the ball carrier to the ground.
Wade was effective when used as a blitzer in the tape viewed. He generally disguised his intentions well and rushed with good timing from the first or second levels.
Wade has significant athletic limitations which impact his ability to play the cornerback position. He lacks quick feet and shows concerning lower body stiffness. Wade’s backpedal is clunky, while stiff hips force him to labor through his transitions and he struggles to stay with receivers through their routes. He also showed balance issues when playing tight man coverage.
Overall Grade: 7.0 - This prospect has the potential to be a reliable contributor at the NFL level, but will need to transition to a new position and has some schematic limitations.
Shaun Wade projects best as a nickel back in a zone defense at the NFL level.
Whether a defense calls Wade a nickel corner or a nickel safety will largely depend on their individual scheme and terminology. However, he has a number of traits which translate well to a safety (or safety-like) role at the NFL level. First among these are his competitive toughness and physicality. Wade is a willing run defender, unafraid of contact, and a reliable tackler in space or at the line of scrimmage. Likewise, he has good awareness and a quick trigger when there’s a play to be made in his one of responsibility.
He is a reliable-enough zone coverage player, provided he doesn’t have to cover too much field or have to try and stay with athletic pass catchers. He’s also a good enough blitzer to be useful in schemes which rely on defensive backs for schemed pressure. Wade isn’t a particularly fast player, but he does have enough long speed that he could play a deep zone in a Cover-2, 4, or 6 scheme, though he might be best as a strong safety or slot defender closer to the line of scrimmage.
Teams will need to work around Wade’s athletic limitations, but he should be able to carve out a role on all but the most aggressive man-coverage defenses.