There’s absolutely no way the Cincinnati Bengals do not look to improve their defense in the 2021 NFL Draft. There’s reason to believe they may favor improving their defense after the first few rounds should they strengthen their offensive line and potentially receiving corps.
One such cornerback that will be available late in the draft is Ohio State’s Shaun Wade.
Coming into the 2020 season, ESPN noted that Wade had top-10 pick potential. Actually playing his last season, one that barely happened as the Big Ten and Ohio State feuded over the season at large, crushed Wade’s stock.
Weight: 196 pounds
Projected Round: Fourth or Fifth
Wade was a preseason All-American. However, his last season and the absolutely thrashing that Alabama gave Ohio State showed that Wade’s speed may not be what many thought it was. Wade, who is recovering from turf toe, didn’t work out in front of scouts at Pro Day.
There are a few positives surrounding Wade though. He’s experienced both in the slot and on the edge. At Ohio State his last season, Wade played more outside, gaining experience against quicker, top-tier receivers where he struggled. DeVonta Smith went for 215 yards against the Buckeyes.
However, in the nickel and against slot receivers, Wade was much more impactful. With Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette covering up that lack of speed his first two seasons, Wade also showed a knack for rushing the passer. Wade doesn’t possess that top-tier speed, and that is what has him slipping down draft boards.
On the right team, there should be plenty of opportunity for Wade to at least grow into a solid slot cornerback and potentially improve his technique to work against quick receivers. His quickness could be a problem but a late-round flier would make sense.
Fit with the Bengals
The Bengals lost William Jackson III this offseason. As he left, Jackson didn’t quite praise the organization. His exodus forced the Bengals to add Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton. Along with Trae Waynes, they’ll make up the top-three cornerbacks for the Bengals. If the Bengals look at adding a cornerback, they’ll likely compete with Eli Apple, a former Buckeye as well, for that No. 4 spot.
Apple didn’t look the best against quicker receivers while in Carolina or New Orleans, so Wade should be able to slide in right in front of Apple on the depth chart. Wade would have the potential to leap Hilton if he can show improved quickness.
“Obviously, the Dallas Cowboys have a massive need for bodies with circulating blood in the secondary. Other ideal NFL draft fits for Shaun Wade could be the Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, and San Francisco 49ers,” Pro Football Network’s Dalton Miller wrote.
With an early day three valuation, there’s no reason to believe Wade couldn’t be a Bengal.