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NFL Draft

What Happened To Shaun Wade?

  • The Draft Network
  • April 15, 2021
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You often run into prospects like cornerback Shaun Wade throughout the NFL draft cycle. While some talents are quick risers that grab attention with masterful junior or senior campaigns, the former coveted 5-star recruit made his way to Columbus, Ohio, where the spotlight shone brightest after a dominant high school tenure that anointed him as the top corner prospect in the 2017 class. 

Wade’s journey to playing time was a gritty process as a freshman joining the likes of current NFL talents Denzel Ward, Damon Arnette, and Jeff Okudah, who, at that time, was a fellow freshman in the secondary room. Nonetheless, Wade focused his season in the weight room after earning a redshirt from then-head coach Urban Meyer. From there, Wade’s concerns of playing time were no longer.

In 2018, Wade appeared in all 14 matchups as a redshirt freshman, garnering a starting role in the slot where he accumulated 31 tackles and three interceptions. He became a household name as weeks progressed with yet another standout corner at the aptly nicknamed “DBU.” He flourished, as 2019 was much the same for uber-athletic Wade, who again appeared in all 13 of the Buckeyes’ matchups in his third season on campus. 

Three years removed from high school, Wade was eligible to enter the 2020 NFL Draft following the conclusion of the ‘19 season where many believed he would have heard his name called before the end of the first round. Wade, however, remained skeptical. Wade was a winner at every level since youth football, and his ultimate goal of a national championship wasn’t met, much to the chagrin of the standout corner. After an initial opt-out of his redshirt junior campaign in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Wade announced he would return to Columbus in an attempt to achieve his ultimate goal. 

A title in a pandemic-riddled season was unattainable for the Buckeyes, who fell short against Alabama in the national championship game. But it was Wade’s game, and draft stock, that ultimately failed to reach expectations.

Lightly put, Wade’s 2020 campaign was abysmal, as a slide to the outside as a primary boundary corner exposed Wade’s weaknesses from a fundamental standpoint in a man-heavy Buckeyes defensive scheme. At times, he didn’t belong on the field.

Now, it’s not to say he was a perfect prospect working as a primary nickel defender in any way, but flaws in his game were hidden in the slot, where he often worked against the opposing offenses WR3, instead of their X or Z targets. Limited route trees and underdeveloped athleticism often tail the makeup of Y wideouts in the college game. Wade, in that sense, was dominant. Yet, as Clemson’s Cornell Powell so elegantly showed above, Wade has a long, long way to go if he has any plans as a corner at the next level. Let me take you back to the romp that was Alabama’s 28-point rout of Ohio State in the national title game, more well known as the “Devonta Smith game.” Wade didn’t mince words when leading up to the matchup when asked who he wanted to line up across. 

“You already know who I want to go up against,” Wade answered. 

It was Smith, the Heisman Trophy favorite on the heels of the most dominant season from a pass-catcher in college football’s illustrious history. For Wade’s sake, and Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day, it’s exactly what you want to hear from the leader of your secondary. It was an opportunity for Wade to quiet critics and reestablish a sliding draft stock. 

The fight was over before the bell rang as Smith ran circles around Wade and the Buckeyes defense to the tune of 215 yards and three touchdowns, all of which came in the first half. Like he was all year long, Smith was in a class of his own, and Wade, again, looked lost.

As we move towards the draft, Wade’s projection is muddy. Many believe he can still produce outside, with excellent tape from his first two seasons. Some, however, believe his size (6-foot-1) and speed (clocking a 4.43-second 40-yard dash) suits him best at safety, where his rangy athleticism and ball skills will allow him to thrive. 

A once-heralded prospect with a first-round grade just a calendar year ago, it’s left us to wonder in just the last 12 months, what happened to Shaun Wade?

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