The days following the draft are filled with tremendous hope and hype where fans and pundits like to predict and project big rookie seasons for everyone. However, that is often not the case because making the jump from college to the pros can be a steep and sometimes arduous one for first year players to make right away.
With that in mind, here’s the sixth in a series of articles that detail realistic year one expectations for each member of the Baltimore Ravens 2021 draft class:
CB Shaun Wade
Round 5 No. 160
The former Ohio State Buckeye struggled in 2020, as he dealt with a knee injury, turf toe, and multiple deaths in his family. However, if he can return to his 2019 form, he could prove to be not only the best value pick of the Ravens 2021 draft class but arguably the biggest steal.
“I’ve had a chip on my shoulder since the 2020 season ended, and the things that I’ve been through,” said Wade. “I’m always going to have a chip on my shoulder regardless. I know what I can do. They know I have first-round talent and I know I have first-round talent.”
There perhaps isn’t a better defensive staff in the entire league that is best-suited to help a healthy Wade recapture and realize his elite ability than the Ravens. As a rookie, he will likely serve as the primary backup to starting nickel corner Tavon Young in the slot.
Many view him as the heir apparent to the often-injured veteran, who is coming off his third season-ending injury and second in consecutive seasons. If Young suffers any setbacks in his rehabilitation process or (God forbid) another injury, Wade could get his number called and receive a heavier workload even sooner than expected.
Even if Young stays healthy the who year, Wade could still get a decent amount of playing time on defense. Opposing offenses are rolling out more four and even five regular wide receiver sets with more regularity as the proliferation of high-flying passing attacks continues.
That means in addition to playing heavily on special teams, Wade could see plenty of defensive snaps in year one or even split the slot reps Young in an attempt to preserve or gradually bring him along. Wade also has the positional versatility to play some safety which was a position in which they lacked depth in 2020.