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Ravens Insider: Three takeaways from the Ravens’ first-round draft pick, Clemson CB Nate Wiggins


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The Ravens drafted Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins at No. 30 overall, adding perhaps the best outside coverage specialist in the class after the top offensive linemen had been taken.

Here are three takeaways on the pick.

The Ravens didn’t go with the most fun pick, but they chose the guy most likely to help their secondary right away

There were two excellent values available when the Ravens picked, and both were cornerbacks. Cooper DeJean of Iowa would have made the most intriguing story. As a big, fast, productive player who would fit at nickel, safety or cornerback and contribute immediately on special teams, DeJean screamed Raven. How tantalizing would it have been to watch new defensive coordinator Zach Orr play around with him and Kyle Hamilton in positionless schemes?

Instead, the Ravens went with Wiggins, whose role is clear.

“In my opinion, the best cover corner in the draft,” general manager Eric DeCosta said.

It’s hard to argue with the logic behind the pick when Brandon Stephens is headed into the last year of his rookie deal and Marlon Humphrey is coming off an injury-hampered season. If they’re both healthy, Wiggins will give Orr an embarrassment of riches at one of the most important positions in football. Humphrey will be able to shift inside in some matchups, as will Stephens.

“We’re just going to have a lot of options,” coach John Harbaugh said.

Wiggins defended 25 passes in his last 23 games at Clemson and essentially eliminated downfield plays in his last season for the Tigers. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds at the NFL scouting combine. He’s long and fluid enough to stick with almost any receiver.

At 6 feet 1 and 182 pounds (at his pro day), he is skinny, but Harbaugh said he has no concern Wiggins will vanish in run defense.

“When you watch the tape, he comes up and smacks people,” he said. “The weight doesn’t impede him at all.”

DeCosta said the Ravens expected Wiggins to be gone in the first 20 picks. When he was still on the board as their choice neared, “if Nate was there, we were going to pick him.”

Draft pundits generally concurred with DeCosta’s value assessment. As much excitement as the Ravens might have created with the versatile DeJean, they could not turn away when a potential shutdown corner dropped in their laps at the end of the first round.

A first round that skewed heavily to offense led the Ravens right back to defense

As much as we speculated about offensive linemen who might drop to No. 30, the top tackles generally went according to projections. Dallas snagged the last of them, Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton, at pick No. 29. It was the defenders who waited and waited as teams lined up to add quarterbacks and pass catchers. The Ravens, fundamentally opposed to reaching for a lesser player just to fill a need, seemed more and more likely to end up with a bargain defensive back or pass rusher.

DeCosta said Wiggins was their top priority. If he was gone, the Ravens would have considered another (unnamed) cornerback or traded down. When they gamed out draft scenarios ahead of Thursday, DeCosta kept coming back to one conclusion: If they did not land a potential starting cornerback in round one, they probably would not find him in Rounds 2 or 3.

“We felt like we honestly had to come out of the first round with most likely a corner or an offensive lineman,” DeCosta said.

The possibility of trading down was real, with as many as eight scenarios on the table. The Ravens picked Wiggins because they felt he was too good to pass up.

“When you get a player that you have highly rated, whom you love, who fills a position of need, then you’ve got to take him,” DeCosta said.

He added that he’s confident potential starting offensive linemen will still be available in Friday’s second and third rounds. The Ravens didn’t punt on that priority. They simply adapted to the shape of a draft that left significant value on the defensive side of the ball in the last 10 picks of the first round.

Positional need, value and opportunity synced up, which is a pretty good summation of the philosophy that has carried the Ravens through 29 years of drafting.

Nate Wiggins’ personality fits his job

Elite physical traits only get you so far as an outside corner matched one-on-one with the arrogant supermen who play NFL wide receiver. You have to covet the isolation and the clash of mighty egos.

Wiggins clearly does. He talked about being on a coverage island like it’s his true home.

“The tape speaks for itself,” he told Baltimore reporters on a Zoom call.

Can he match steps with some of the quickest athletes in the world? “I’ve always been the fastest guy on the field,” he said.

Such boldness will endear him to Ravens fans raised on several generations of brash defensive superstars. The Atlanta native won’t turn 21 until the end of August but already speaks the same language as many of the great defensive backs who came before him.

“It’s a very hard position to play,” DeCosta said. “A lot of guys can’t do it. The biggest thing is — and John [Harbaugh] always says it — you’ve got to actually cover people. You’ve got to guard people. It’s a hard thing, and Nate has proven that he can do that very, very well.”

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