It’s almost NFL Draft time, Green Bay Packers fans. While a lot of the excitement and wonder is aimed at that No. 29 pick, what the Packers do in the later rounds could really mold this draft for the years to come.
The middle rounds of the NFL Draft usually allow teams to occasionally step outside the box and take a flyer on a player with questions in one area but a tone of intrigue or mystery in other categories. It can lead to a lot of “boom or bust” labeling, a recycled term often thrown around for prospects taken in some of these slots as the draft progresses onward.
As fans wonder how Green Bay will set out a plan for attack, there’s a large belief that they’ll use one of their first two picks on a cornerback. If Brian Gutekunst and company go this route, don’t be surprised if they double up on cornerback later in the draft. And if Shaun Wade from THE Ohio State University is there, they gotta grab him.
Wade’s story is a fascinating one. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and was rated by most as the second-best cornerback in the 2017 class. Wade committed to Ohio State, but upon arrival, he realized the cornerback room was jam-packed.
Future first-round picks Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette were in place on the outside, leading to Wade getting early reps in the slot where he flourished. Wade’s physicality at the line of scrimmage and his “in your face” style made life miserable for opposing slot receivers. His instincts were top-notch when playing the slot as well. He diagnosed plays immediately and wasn’t afraid to help out in the run game by lowering his shoulders for some big hits.
Ohio State fans saw a future lock-down stud.
Once Okudah and Arnette moved on, some draftniks expected Wade to follow suit. But he returned to Columbus and saw mixed results.
Wade didn’t appear as comfortable lining up on the outside. Oftentimes, he’d bite towards the first shift or movement made by the wide receivers he lined up against. It led to some easy pitch-and-catch opportunities last year, especially in the Penn State and Indiana games. Wade was also the aggressor in the slot but seemed hesitant on the outside.
The injuries started to pile up as well.
Wade had offseason surgery on a torn abdominal muscle following the 2019 season. He later injured his knee that summer. Last season, he battled a nagging turf toe injury that really hindered and limited his quick burst and speed that everyone had become so accustomed to seeing. It was perhaps most noticeable in the National Championship a year ago when Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith seemingly “picked” on Wade early and often.
All of this may lead to some consternation about Wade, but he wouldn’t be a first or second-round pick. Before the start of the college football season a year ago, you couldn’t find a mock draft that didn’t have Wade going in the top 15. Now, he’s considered a third, maybe fourth-round selection. If he were to slip to the later stages of Round 3 or even Round 4, why not take that chance on him?
The track record is there. It’s not taking a shot in the dark on a completely unknown. Wade has the pedigree and has shown the ability to lock it down at the corner spot. The main question is whether he projects to be in the slot or on the outside in the NFL. Perhaps even sprinkle in a little safety play? Versatility isn’t a bad thing.
And they’ll have to wade through the injury reports in a season where there is less information because the league canceled the combine. Is Wade just snake-bitten with constant injuries? Do the Packers believe he can stay healthy? More importantly, how much did those injuries affect Wade last year when he looked like a shell of his former self at times?
These are all things the Packers and every other team have to sift through. But for a guy who was a five-star recruit and started his career in Columbus with a bang, to now be able to potentially have that talent in the late third or fourth round could be very advantageous for Green Bay.
Wade is no longer the surefire cornerback of this draft class that many thought he would be entering last season. But there’s a chance he could still emerge as one of the better corners in this class if he’s drafted into the right situation and regains that confidence he had early on in his college career.