Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade
After being considered a first-round prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft, Shaun Wade elected to return to Ohio State for the 2020 season. Jeffery Okudah and Damen Arnette were both selected in the first-round this last off-season, leaving an opening on the boundary. After playing primarily in the slot for Ohio State in 2019, Wade moved to the outside to raise his draft stock.
Unfortunately, things haven’t gone as planned for Wade in 2020. Since moving to the outside, he has struggled. Issues pop up with his pressing at the line of scrimmage, allowing receivers free releases to get into their routes. Most of the damage has been dealt in the intermediate to deep areas of the field. Over his first three games, he had zero interceptions and only one pass deflection. However, he has picked up an interception in each of the last two games against Michigan State and Indiana, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Despite finally coming down with a couple of interceptions, he still took a beating against Indiana wide receivers. Three games have already been canceled for Ohio State in 2020, and with the Michigan game being canceled today, the last remaining regular-season game will be against Northwestern next weekend. That’s not much time to turn things around and prove to be a dominant outside presence.
As of right now, Wade looks to be still a late first-round to early second-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Of course, teams interested in the Ohio State product will be looking to fill either a nickel cornerback role or safety role. Whether or not Wade would be willing to transition to safety is unknown, but that could be his best fit in the NFL.
His blend of outstanding football intelligence and toughness would thrive from a safety role. Wade does his best work in zone coverage with the play in front of him. He has the ability to quickly read pattern combinations while remaining disciplined inside of his zone to position himself to make a play on the ball. When playing from the slot in 2019, the 6’1″, 195-pound cornerback also proved to be a weapon when blitzing. He does a great job of disguising his intentions pre-snap to allow him to rush the passer unblocked and has some impressive bend around the edge to get away from tackles.
Against the run, Wade showed to be more than willing to get physical. His ability to get off of blocks and consistently make open-field tackles is another trait that bodes well if he decides to transition to the safety position. The position wouldn’t be too unfamiliar as Ohio State had him dropping back into deep zones several times during his junior season.
Whether or not Wade needs more time to acclimate to the outside is unknown. He shows traits that would transition well along the boundary, including heavy hands to disrupt routes, athleticism to carry through tight breaks in man coverage, and speed to keep up with faster receivers, but it hasn’t worked out in 2020.
For Kansas City, Wade would be an excellent addition to the cornerback room as a versatile weapon in Spagnuolo’s defense. His rookie season would likely be playing from the slot with a mixture of safety roles, as we have seen the last two seasons from Sneed, Fenton, and Fuller. With Daniel Sorensen‘s contract expiring after 2020, it could be a replacement option if the Chiefs elect to move on in 2021. It would also leave Ward and Sneed to the boundary roles.
If he earned the coaching staff’s trust to get another shot playing outside, it would give the team a chance to replace Ward following the 2021 season. Wade brings the quick-twitch athleticism, outstanding processing in coverage, along with the physicality and toughness to make a strong presence in the running game and blitzing the quarterback. Working with the Chiefs coaching staff, he could either be a lethal weapon from several roles or turn those traits into a productive boundary cornerback down the road.