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The Story Behind How Nate Wiggins Became the Ravens' First-Round Pick

GM Eric DeCosta
GM Eric DeCosta

General Manager Eric DeCosta felt the Ravens needed to strike early in this year's draft to find a cornerback they coveted.

That mission was accomplished in the first round, when Baltimore selected Nate Wiggins of Clemson with their pick at No. 30. Wiggins could play a key role for the Ravens as a rookie, and DeCosta felt he couldn't wait to land a quality cornerback in this year's class.

"That's something that honestly kept me up at night," DeCosta said. "There are a lot of offensive linemen in this draft. They are a pretty deep pool of receivers. But as I would go through working all these different simulations, it became apparent that if we didn't get a corner in the first round, it was going to be challenging to get a really good corner in the second, third, fourth round that could help us right away."

An NFL-record six quarterbacks were selected among the first 12 picks, and the first 13 picks were all offensive players, pushing defensive players down the board. The first cornerback selected was Quinyon Mitchell of Toledo, who went 22nd to Philadelphia. Followed by Terrion Arnold of Alabama was taken at No. 24 by the Lions, who traded up to get him.

DeCosta said the Ravens would have considered trading out of the first round if another team had taken Wiggins before he reached No. 30. DeCosta said he had eight trade offers on the table. But the Ravens waited patiently and were thrilled when Wiggins was still available.

"Honestly, I didn't think that Nate would be there for us," DeCosta said. "We thought there might be a chance, and then you start to see the run on corners in the 20's. You start to get antsy.

"The phone was ringing, we had a lot of different potential trade possibilities. But for us, it was always, 'If Nate is there, we are going to pick.'"

The Ravens met with Wiggins at the Combine, and he also visited Baltimore before the draft. That time spent with him made DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh even more convinced Wiggins would be a great fit.

"He's a motivated guy," Harbaugh said. "He's talking about that he has a lot to prove. We both got on the phone with him and talked to him, and he's talking about what he has to prove, so our response was, 'Alright, let's come in here next week, and let's get to work. Let's get started on it.'

"He's planning on being a hard worker, and if he does that, we've got a path for him. We've got a plan for him, and we'll have him ready to go."

After his pre-draft visit with Baltimore, Wiggins returned home feeling their interest in him was high.

"They always told me if I was there, and I was available, they were going to take me," Wiggins said. "There were a lot of emotions going on through it. I was just thinking I was going to go earlier than pick No. 30, but I'm happy to be here, man. I'm happy to be in Baltimore."

Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Stephens were Baltimore's starting outside corners in 2023, with Humphrey, safety Kyle Hamilton and Arthur Maulet all rotating into the slot. Wiggins' ability to cover outside and 4.28 speed will give the Ravens even more ways to match up with opposing receivers.

There's an element of luck in every draft, and DeCosta feels lucky that Wiggins fell to the Ravens. Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney texted DeCosta during the draft and urged him to take Wiggins, but he didn't need any more convincing.

"In my opinion, he's the best cover corner in the draft," DeCosta said.

"'I've got to give [Manager of Data and Decision Science] Derrick Yam credit. Derrick works for me, upstairs in analytics. He was convinced that we would get a player in our range between 13-20 in our sequence; picking 30. I didn't think it was going to happen this year, but he was right. When you get a player that you have highly rated, who you love, who fills a position of need, then you've got to take him."

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