Ravens defensive coordinator Zach Orr didn’t need to say much about the team’s top draft pick Friday afternoon. His smile spoke for itself.

“This is a great day to be a Raven,” Orr said. “Obviously, last night, we drafted Nate Wiggins, who we obviously believe is the best corner in the draft. Not only the best corner but one of the best defensive players overall.”

Wiggins, the No. 30 overall pick, will loom large next season. As Orr and the Ravens look to reassert their defensive dominance, here’s a look at how Wiggins’ addition could change the secondary.

Big-play success

The Ravens had the NFL’s best big-play defense last season. They created big plays (a league-high 31 takeaways and 60 sacks) and limited them, too (13 completions of 20-plus air yards, third fewest in the league, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats).

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Wiggins should help with both. In 2023, he faced 13 deep targets, according to Sports Info Solutions, and allowed just one completion. Wiggins also forced two fumbles on chase-down plays that denied a touchdown just before the goal line. His takeaway against North Carolina led to a touchback, while his forced fumble against Miami led to a touchdown by another Hurricanes player.

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“As soon as you turn on the tape, you already knew,” assistant head coach and pass game coordinator Chris Hewitt said Friday. “You’re just like, ‘God, dawg, look at this guy go.’ I mean, the guy’s a blur on the field. ... Whenever there was a time for a guy to make the play, this guy was making plays all over the field. …

“Those are game-changing plays, and those are the kind of players that we look for. A guy like Nate, he’s going to fit great in our organization. He’s going to be a guy that’s going to be able to make some great plays for us and fit in within our defense and take us to that next level that we’re looking for.”

Manning up?

The Ravens’ reliance on man coverage has waned in recent years. So has the NFL’s.

From 2019 to 2021, the last three years of coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s tenure in Baltimore, the Ravens’ man-to-man usage fell from 46.1% to 44.9% to 34.7%, according to Pro Football Focus. The leaguewide rates moved in lockstep, dropping from 34.4% to 30.8% to 27.9%.

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Last year, the Ravens had the NFL’s best pass defense under coordinator Mike Macdonald, according to FTN’s efficiency metrics. They also played their lowest rate of man coverage since 2019 (25.8%) — still above the league average but a precipitous drop from their in-your-face heyday under Martindale.

It’s not as if the Ravens have given up on man coverage; many of their zone schemes play out with man-to-man principles. But there is value in having cornerbacks who can follow a wide receiver around the field in obvious passing downs and shut him down.

Wiggins could give the Ravens that flexibility. He played 172 defensive snaps last season in man-to-man, according to PFF — close to 60% of his total coverage snaps — and allowed just 15 catches on 28 targets for 166 yards. In Baltimore, cornerback Brandon Stephens (224 snaps) was the team’s only cornerback to play more than 110 snaps in man coverage last season; he allowed 19 catches on 36 targets for 179 yards.

“A guy that’s as talented as this guy is, it doesn’t matter if we’re playing zone, man or whatever it is,” Hewitt said. “He’s extremely talented.”

Another puzzle piece

Wiggins’ arrival could have a trickle-down effect on the secondary. If his smaller size (6 feet 1, 182 pounds) precludes him from lining up in the slot next season but he’s too talented to keep off the field, how will the Ravens handle their cornerback room?

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Humphrey’s versatility could be key. Over the past three seasons, he’s had a slightly above-average coverage success rate of 53.7% and allowed 1.2 yards per coverage snap when lined up as an outside cornerback, according to NGS. But, as a slot cornerback, his coverage success rate has been 63.4%, one of the NFL’s best rates, and he’s allowed just 0.9 yards per coverage snap.

“Marlon’s going to be able to slide in there and play inside,” coach John Harbaugh said Thursday night. “Brandon can slide in and play inside. You have [safety] Kyle [Hamilton] coming down. … We’re just going to have a lot of options.”

Added general manager Eric DeCosta: “And [cornerback] Arthur [Maulet] had a heck of a season for us last year.”

Wiggins won’t turn 21 until late August, but Hewitt said the Ravens are “going to get this guy on the field, and you’re going to see a great player for years to come.”

“With the guys that we have in our room, all our guys, they’re truly interchangeable, trying to get the best guys on the field,” Hewitt said. “Whatever that position is, or how we get him on the field, that’s what it’s all about, just trying to get the best players on the field, and getting the best five or six guys on the back end to play and play as one.”

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Fitting the run

Wiggins lined up primarily as an outside cornerback for Clemson over the past two seasons, which limited his involvement in the run defense. In 2022, he had just three tackles against the run, according to PFF. Last season, he had two.

That was probably for the best. Wiggins’ lean frame — he weighed in at just 173 pounds at the scouting combine — did not lend itself to run support; his missed-tackle rate over the past two seasons was a worrying 37.5%, according to PFF.

But Harbaugh said the Ravens would have a plan for Wiggins, who weighed 182 pounds at Clemson’s pro day. Harbaugh also wasn’t concerned about Wiggins’ physicality. “When you watch the tape, he comes up and smacks people. That’s what he does. He’s not afraid of the physical part of it at all. He’s a complete corner.”

The NFL’s best play-callers will test that notion. Creative offensive coordinators can target run-defense-averse outside cornerbacks with reduced splits, scheming up blocks from tight ends and wide receivers that challenge defenders’ willingness to set the edge in space.

Asked about his tackling ability, Wiggins wasn’t concerned. “When I get my nutrition [regimen], I feel like [I’m] going to be a big problem,” Wiggins said after he was drafted. “I feel like it just takes time. I’m 20 years old, so [I’m] not really stretched out yet, so I know when I get to my peak, it’s going to be scary.”

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“He comes up and tackles,” Orr said. “He comes up and hits. He plays physical. He’s only 20 years old. Like, I was a kinesiology major; they say full men don’t stop growing until, like, 27 years old. So he’s got a lot of time to grow. ... On tape, I didn’t see anything about him being undersized as anything that we critiqued. I mean, he flew up, set the edge in the run game, played physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage, came up, tackled, getting the ball off people. So he played like a Raven. We have no concerns with that at all.”