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Late for Work: Ravens Get High Grades for 'Home Run Pick' Nate Wiggins

Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins returns an interception for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Florida Atlantic Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Clemson, S.C.
Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins returns an interception for a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Florida Atlantic Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Clemson, S.C.

Ravens Receive High Grades for 'Home Run Pick' Nate Wiggins

The Ravens have a history of exercising patience in the draft and having players they covet fall into their laps. It happened again last night when they landed Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins with the 30th pick in Round 1.

General Manager Eric DeCosta called Wiggins "the best cover corner in the draft" and said he was "ecstatic that he fell to us."

ESPN analyst Louis Reddick was effusive in his praise for the pick.

"This is a guy who plays like a Raven," Riddick said on "SportsCenter" (transcribed by The Baltimore Sun’s Brian Wacker). "It means maximum effort, maximum physicality, positional versatility in guys who will run and hit. And this kid has all of that. Big, long, tall, 4.28 [seconds] in the 40[-yard dash], all the hustle plays that he had at Clemson. He can cover big guys, little guys, he can play inside, play outside, play the slot, play the corner on the outside. He will fit in perfectly at a position of need for them down in Baltimore, and I'm telling you, the Baltimore Ravens fan base will love the guy.

"He is the prototypical Raven. … It's a home run pick for them."

ESPN analyst and former Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III said he sees similarities between Wiggins and Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders.

Reddick and Griffin weren't alone in endorsing the Ravens' selection of Wiggins. The pick received universal praise and high grades from pundits:

Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer: "Grade: A. The Ravens are ready to push forward at corner, where they needed some depth behind Marlon Humphrey and a potential upgrade from Brandon Stephens outside. They had to grab a falling Wiggins for his size, speedy, and savvy playmaking."

Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar: "Grade: A. The Ravens like aggressive cornerbacks, and there aren't too many more aggressive cornerbacks in this class than Wiggins, who will press and match and carry receivers all over the field. He's not the biggest guy at 6' 1⅜" and 173 pounds, so maybe he'll need to down a few crab cakes when he hits town, but everything else is on point."

The Athletic's Nick Baumgardner: "Grade: A-. One of the fastest players on the board (4.28 at the combine), Wiggins is fast off the line of scrimmage and also possesses excellent second-level speed — making him incredibly difficult to beat vertically. Wiggins' length at 6 feet 1 with near-31-inch arms is also a plus, as he got his hands on 25 passes over the last two seasons at Clemson. The question marks here are size and power. Wiggins was 173 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine before reporting a 182-pound weight later at his pro day. He was mainly an outside-only corner in college, and there are questions about how much he can give a team against the run. A first-round talent in this draft, though, to be sure."

The 33rd Team’s Ian Valentino: "Grade: A-. This is a strong fit that we often mocked. The Baltimore Ravens needed playmaking at the position, and Nate Wiggins brings speed and effort. He's an ideal man coverage option for a unit lacking high-end talent across Marlon Humphrey."

The Nashville Tennessean’s Nick Gray: "Grade: A-. From a traits standpoint, Wiggins can wow with speed and athleticism. He's a willing and aggressive cover corner who fits Baltimore's defense."

Ebony Bird's Mike Luciano: Grade: A-. The secondary was elite last year, and adding Wiggins will help keep it that way in a passing league. … Wiggins is a top-shelf athlete who could easily become a Pro Bowler if he dips into his reservoir of talent. Baltimore landed a Top-20 player at No. 30, and that's a win for all involved."

CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: "Grade: B+. They have a need at corner and Wiggins might be the best cover player of all of them. He isn't a great tackler, but he can lock on and play press man in their defense. He just needs to improve his tackling."

The Ringer’s Danny Kelly: "Grade: B+. It feels like the Ravens sit back and scoop up good players in the back end of the first round every year, and they did it again here. Wiggins is wiry thin and weighed in at just 173 pounds at the combine, but he brings electric speed (4.28-second 40-yard dash) and plays with instincts in coverage. He's a plug-and-play starter on the outside opposite Marlon Humphrey."’s Chad Reuter: "Grade: B. Wiggins' recovery speed stood out on tape and was confirmed with a 4.28-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. He's not a physical tackler but is competitive at the catch point. Wiggins weighed just 173 pounds (measuring 6-foot-1 3/8 inch) at the combine, which is reminiscent of last year's lean first-round corner for Washington, Emmanuel Forbes, who struggled as a rookie."

Sports Illustrated’s Matt Verderame: "Grade: B-. Wiggins is an exceptional athlete. He's also undersized at 6'1" and 173 pounds, a weight which undoubtedly had some teams taking him off their boards. That said, Wiggins can always overcome many issues with his 4.28 40-yard dash, along with a good weight program at the next level."

Pro Football Focus: "Grade: Good. The Ravens select the lengthy but light Wiggins to play alongside Marlon Humphrey and Kyle Hamilton in their secondary. Wiggins' closing speed is elite, and he showed good press ability in college despite his frame. He led the ACC with an 89.4 PFF coverage grade over the last two seasons. If he can handle NFL receivers' play strength, he has immense potential."

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: "The Ravens couldn't believe that Wiggins, one of their top-20 rated players, was still on the board at the bottom of the first round. Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta turned down eight offers to trade back because they loved Wiggins so much. Wiggins, who was the second-fastest player at this year's NFL combine, only allowed 176 yards to receivers in 10 games last season. He has the speed to match up against the likes of Bengals receiver Ja'Marr Chase. The Ravens can use Wiggins and Brandon Stephens as their outside cornerbacks and shift physical Marlon Humphrey into the slot. It just got tougher to move the ball against a Baltimore defense that allowed the fewest points in the league last season."

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "Wiggins is a sensible pick who carries plenty of upside. He adds much-needed quality depth in the present and gives the team an expected starter in the future."

Wacker: "A record run of 14 consecutive offensive players going off the board to start the draft meant that the Ravens had a juicy bounty of defensive options by the time they were on the clock with the 30th pick, which is how they incredibly ended up with Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins. At 6 feet 1 and 173 pounds, he is slight, but he can fly."

Baltimore Beatdown’s Vasilis Lericos: "General Manager Eric DeCosta landed a bonafide steal with Wiggins late in the first round. The cover corner with rare speed and agility was mocked as a top-20 pick throughout the draft cycle, but Baltimore, true to form, was able to land the Clemson product at 30 overall. Cornerback has arguably been the primary position responsible for the Ravens' defensive dynasty during the last few decades and Wiggins has the skill set to carry on that tradition with sticky 'seatbelt' coverage prowess that is rarely available beyond the lottery picks. Solid double with home run potential is the Ozzie Newsome Ravens Way. If DeCosta can add a couple more playmakers on Day 2 of the draft, the Ravens will be well prepared for a rematch with the Chiefs next postseason."

Baltimore Beatdown’s Joshua Reed: "Patience paid off for General Manager Eric DeCosta and the Ravens again as they landed arguably the best pure cover cornerback in this year's class according to many pundits and DeCosta himself. On a night dominated by offense, they came away with tremendous value who could be a potential perennial Pro Bowler. Wiggins possesses great athleticism, speed and natural coverage ability and plays with relentless effort."

Russell Street Report’s Chris Schisler: "The Ravens would have had good options if they traded back yet they got the pick in quickly. That speaks to their confidence. Wiggins is a lanky-armed corner with a knack for making plays; it's hard not to like the pick. Wiggins should have probably been taken earlier, but the Ravens got a steal as a result of quarterback madness taking over Round 1. On top of value the Ravens just got better at a position of need. A good defense got better."

Pundit Says Wiggins' Confidence Fits Ravens Defense

It's not just Wiggins' talent and the fact that he fills a need that makes him an ideal fit for the Ravens. The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker said it's also Wiggins' confidence and personality.

"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," Walker wrote. "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."

Offensive Line 'Has to Be' Priority on Day 2

The offensive line was regarded as the Ravens' biggest need heading into the draft, and it remains so entering Day 2.

"The Ravens' priority has to be getting an offensive lineman with one of their two picks on Day 2," Hensley wrote. "Baltimore has the No. 62 overall pick in the second round and the No. 93 selection in the third round. Baltimore lost three starters on the offensive line this offseason, and it only added backup Josh Jones in free agency."

Nine offensive linemen were taken in the first round, but DeCosta noted last night that "there are a lot of offensive linemen in this draft." The cornerback pool isn't as deep.

"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," DeCosta said.

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