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Ravens Insider: With Nate Wiggins still on the board, the Ravens couldn’t turn their pick in fast enough


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Zach Orr was ready to fight for his man. He had told Nate Wiggins as much when the Clemson cornerback met with Ravens coaches on a predraft visit.

As it turned out, Orr did not have to convince general manager Eric DeCosta when pick No. 30 came up and Wiggins was still waiting for a team.

“You saw how fast the pick got turned in,” Orr, the Ravens’ new defensive coordinator, said Friday as the team introduced Wiggins to reporters.

Dressed in a white suit with a Ravens cap perched high on his head, Wiggins cracked up the room when he noted he was in the bathroom Thursday night at the moment the team called.

Every NFL staff showers its first-round pick with praise in the first 24 hours, but there was palpable eagerness from both sides regarding the Wiggins-Ravens union.

“Obviously, you can see the smiles on our faces,” Orr said. “What stood out to me the most is that in the big-time games, at the big-time moments — you’re talking about third down, fourth down, two-minute, end of half — whenever the ball came his way, he made the play.”

Defensive pass game coordinator Chris Hewitt needed just a few minutes of conversation with Wiggins to decide the 20-year-old has what it takes between the ears. His game footage was equally convincing.

“All I had to do was just go ahead and turn on the tape,” Hewitt said. “You’re just like, ‘Goddog, look at this guy go.’ Whenever it was time for a guy to make a play, this guy was making plays all over the field.”

He pointed to a pair of chase-down strips that showed off both Wiggins’ speed (4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and his fire.

“Those are like game-changing plays,” Hewitt said. “And those are the kind of guys we look for.”

Baltimore Ravens first-round draft pick Nate Wiggins, center, poses with head coach John Harbuagh, left, and executive vice president and general manager Eric DeCosta, right, at an NFL football news conference, Friday, April 26, 2024, in Owings Mills, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Ravens first-round draft pick Nate Wiggins poses with coach John Harbuagh, left, and executive vice president and general manager Eric DeCosta, right, at the team’s facility Friday in Owings Mills. (Nick Wass/AP)

Wiggins, who will wear No. 2 for the Ravens, acknowledged the “up-and-down” experience of waiting for his name to be called on a night when the first 14 picks were used on offensive players.

“They going to see that they passed up,” he said of the teams picking ahead of Baltimore.

But the Atlanta native seems convinced he’s in the right place, playing for a franchise built on great, attacking defense with coaches who badly wanted him.

Hewitt said he didn’t play cornerback until ninth grade and then only reluctantly. As a youth player he lined up under center. “I thought I was going to be Cam Newton,” he said. His dreams next turned to wide receiver.

His parents and coaches, however, convinced him that his length and speed would set him apart on the defensive side of the ball. “There’s a lot receivers that are fast,” he said. “I mean, there’s not that many cornerbacks who are tall and can do what I do.”

Sage advice that eventually led him to Clemson, where he earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors and became one of the top draft prospects at his position.

The Ravens are convinced Wiggins’ speed, length, awareness and confidence will make him a formidable match for the best pass catchers in the world as early as this season. The team already has a pair of incumbent starting cornerbacks in Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Stephens, not to mention veteran nickel back Arthur Maulet. But coach John Harbaugh talked Thursday about the variety of options Wiggins will create, with Humphrey or Stephens able to shift inside when the matchups are favorable.

“With a guy that’s as talented as this guy is, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing man or zone or whatever it is,” Hewitt said. “The other part about it is he’s got a high football IQ. Going through the whole process, when we were at the combine, I think I stopped the meeting after like three minutes. It was like it was over; the guy was so smart.”

Evaluators gushed over Wiggins’ coverage tools. ESPN’s Louis Riddick referred to him as a “prototypical Raven” and a “home run pick.”

If draft pundits knocked him, it was for his slender fame and minimal impact as a tackler.

“Baltimore will need to help him be a little bit more of an urgent defender against the run,” wrote NFL Network analyst and former Ravens scout Daniel Jeremiah.

The Ravens insist Wiggins will bulk up and say they saw plenty of aggression in his game tapes.

“He comes up and tackles, comes up and hits. He plays physical,” Orr said. “He’s only 20 years old. He’s got a lot of time to grow. But on tape, I didn’t see anything about him being undersized. He flew up, set the edge in the run game, played physical with wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. We have no concerns about that at all.”

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