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Bo Mitchell and the VikesCentric crew go deep on the Vikings

VikesCentric: A tall order--Vikings grab Waynes in the first round

Trader Rick Spielman pulled off another surprise at the 2015 NFL Draft—he hung onto his pick at Number 11, and the Vikings drafted Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes. A Waynes pick was not unexpected, but the fact that Spielman didn’t trade back in the draft caught some observers off guard.

 “As we saw the draft unfold, there wasn’t a lot of movement or a lot of trades,” Spielman told the Star Tribune. “We did have a lot of activity that came up to us, but as you sit there and went through it, we had Trae Waynes very high on our draft board, and some of the offers that we had to trade down, we didn’t feel the value was there.”

In addition to that, head coach Mike Zimmer was in the war room. Zimmer is a former longtime defensive coordinator and a defensive back specialist, and Waynes was “in his wheel house,” according to Spielman.

“We did a whole lot of work on Trae Waynes,” Zimmer told the Star Tribune. “And, to me, it’s extremely important that you have guys with great character, great leadership, they’re great competitors and obviously the athletic ability that he has—that’s always been big to me. Everybody says I love corners, but I love good football players more than I love corners, and I felt like he can help us in a lot of different ways.”

Zimmer improved the Vikings defense last season with the first round pick of linebacker Anthony Barr. And now Waynes comes to Zimmer’s defense and will have a chance to learn it from former Zimmer disciple Terence Newman, who the Vikings picked up in free agency. Newman is 36 years old, but he will serve as a great mentor and teacher of Zimmer’s defense, and Waynes will be the beneficiary.

Waynes has a lot going for him. He’s a very good cover corner, he prefers man-to-man and he has the speed to handle it. Waynes clocked in as the fastest cornerback at the NFL Combine and was rated by many as the top cornerback in the draft.

“He’s got great speed, he’s 6-1, and it’s hard to find six foot corners (although there are a few in this year’s draft),” Zimmer said. “But to get a big corner that can run and have good change of direction, they’re hard to find.”

In 2014, Waynes was named second-team All American by Walter Camp Football Foundation, Sporting News and Athlon Sports and he earned third team honors from the Associate Press. Waynes was also one of 15 semi-finalists for the Jim Thorpe award—given to the nation’s top defensive back. He had 101 tackles, six interceptions and 13 pass break ups in 36 career games.

And while Waynes at 6-1 is the tall corner that the Vikings were looking for, he is only 182 pounds. But Zimmer doesn’t appear to be bothered by his weight.

“The natural prototype for corners is 185--for the starters in the league,” Zimmer said. “He’s got good height, good speed. I don’t worry about the [weight], I worry about if they can cover.”

Waynes is not yet a complete NFL ready player. Although he is tough in coverage, he has a reputation of grabbing receivers that he covers, which is something that will get him flagged on Sunday afternoons.

“Trae has a little bit of grabby up the field, which we will have to correct,” Zimmer said. “He does a good job in press, but there are some things I see on tape that I want to address with him. He’s got the great size and length, and Michigan State has done a great job teaching these corners—they’ve done it for a long time.”

Waynes comes in after playing a lot of man defense, but he said that he considers himself able to play whatever schemes Zimmer has in mind. Waynes is excited to play for Zimmer, who he calls a defensive guru.

“[I like] the way he plays his corners,” Waynes told the Star Tribune. “I like to press, but I feel like I can play [other schemes] if I have to. I am pretty diverse and will be able to play however he wants me to.”

When Waynes gets up to speed in the Vikings’ defense, he will eventually be paired with another tall cornerback in Xavier Rhodes, who excelled in Zimmer’s defense last season. For Zimmer, the addition of another tall cornerback with speed is going to allow him to put his trademark aggressive defense on the field--even more aggressive than last season.

“Depending on how fast this guy matures and how fast this guy gets into the NFL and all that stuff, when you don’t have to really worry too much about the corners, you don’t have to give them much help, you don’t have to cheat the coverages, you can do numerous things that allow you to attack offenses,” Zimmer said. “When you have to help a guy and protect a guy or use more of your guys than you would like to, it makes it more difficult.”

Suffice it to say, the Vikings drafted Waynes and aren’t planning to worry about their cornerbacks for a while. And the same can be said for Vikings fans, as Waynes, who comes from Kenosha, Wisconsin, did not grow up a Packers fan.

“No, I was a player’s fan, I didn’t really have a favorite team,” Waynes said. “I always watched players. I liked players on the Vikings, but I just watched players.”

Head over to Vikings Journal for more coverage of the NFL Draft and then join in the conversation on the Vikings Journal forums, where everything Purple is dissected and discussed. 

Joe Oberle is a senior writer at VikingsJournal.comcovers the NFL for The Sports Post and is managing editor of Minnesota Golfer magazine. He is an author and longtime Minnesota-based writer.

VikesCentric: Final Mock Draft

It’s time for one last mock draft before the real thing begins on Thursday night. I am going on record one more time with my NFL Draft predictions along with analysis of every pick through the Vikings at 11. For the other 21 first-round picks, please visit VikingsJournal.com.

Once you’ve compared and contrasted your mock draft with mine (assuming you did one... doesn't everybody?) be prepared to crumple up both of them because a half-dozen first-round trades (including one by the Vikings) could render all our mocks meaningless. Mel Kiper and Todd McShay and all the other famous draft experts are destined to have inaccurate mocks as well so we’re all in good company at least. Seriously, I anticipate another draft full of wheeling and dealing, beginning in Round 1 -- possibly with the second overall pick. You thought your March Madness bracket was ruined early? As many as five, six or seven trades in the first round could destroy the draft order listed below. But our role as NFL observers and journalists obligates us to produce mocks nonetheless. Here we go…

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
I’m feeling good about my mock draft so far. I’m 95 percent certain that Winston will go No. 1 overall so I will at least have one pick correct. I’m not saying that I’m sold on Jameis as a franchise quarterback, but he possesses the best quarterback skill set in this draft class and the Bucs need a quarterback so it adds up quite nicely. I have difficulty getting past all the off-field red flags and the ugly SPARQ score so in my mind the potential for him becoming a bust is very real. That said, once he goes first overall he can afford to buy all the crab legs he wants. That should at least eliminate shoplifting as a potential problem again.

2. Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The fun will begin early on draft night. I have Mariota pegged to go second overall but it might not be to the Titans. If he does go to Music City, he might wind up playing second fiddle to Zach Mettenberger for a period of time, perhaps his entire rookie season. However, with trade winds swirling faster than a supercell thunderstorm in region with a TOR:CON value of 6, it could just as easily be the Chargers, Eagles or Browns picking Mariota here. In other words, I think Mariota goes second, but I put the chances of the Titans being the team that selects him as 50/50 at best. Also, I watch too much of the Weather Channel.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida
I’ll stick with Fowler to the Jaguars at three as I had in my previous mock. Honestly, I’m 75 percent sold on Fowler being the pick here, but the Jaguars will be awfully tempted to grab a wide receiver – namely, the next guy on this list.

4. Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
I’m still going with Cooper to the Raiders at four. No, the signing of Michael Crabtree doesn’t change the fact that the Raiders still need wide receiver help. Cooper was the best, most polished wide receiver I watched play college last season so I’ve had him ahead of Kevin White and Devante Parker in all my mocks. It’s interesting that the Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said last week that he is happy to take offers for this pick. They could certainly use help in a number of areas, so a trade down is not out of the question.

5. Washington Redskins – Leonard Williams, DE, USC
A lot of folks consider Williams the best overall player in the draft. Others deem him safe, talented and versatile but with a limited ceiling. Either way, getting him fifth overall would constitute a bit of a bargain for Washington – if such a thing exists this early in a draft -- and addresses one of several areas of need.

6. New York Jets – Vic Beasley, OLB/DE, Clemson
Neither Kevin White nor Todd Gurley would be shocking here, but the Jets need edge-rushing help in Todd Bowles’ 3-4 defense. There are some whispers that Beasley could slide, but I just don’t see it. He helped his stock at the combine and I don’t think he falls out of the top 10.

7. Chicago Bears – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
The Bears could use help at every level of the defense, but the last I checked the draft has seven rounds. It will be darn near impossible for them to pass up a unique size/speed receiver like White as a replacement for Brandon Marshall. They need to give Jay Cutler all the weapons they can.

8. Atlanta Falcons – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
If Gurley doesn’t go to the Jets at six, the Falcons are going to have a big decision to make. Do they address their need for a pass rusher, add much-needed offensive line help… or do they nab the most talented running back in the draft? I can’t see the Falcons entering the season with Devonta Freeman as their starter at running back. Obviously, they could opt to wait and take a running back later on in this deep running back draft class, but when the kid from Georgia is sitting right there how can they pass up the chance at keeping him in town? Regardless, someone will take Gurley in the top 10 now that his surgically repaired knee has passed all the tests and he is on track to play by Week 1.

9. New York Giants – Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa
Here’s where we start buzz-killing a certain segment of the Vikings’ fan base. I have had Scherff falling to the Vikings in my last two mock drafts. However, that scenario was admittedly tinged with wishful thinking for a Vikings team that finished dead last in pass blocking efficiency last season according to the stat maestros at Pro Football Focus. The Giants could definitely use offensive line help as well, and Scherff would step in and start immediately for them.

10. St. Louis Rams – Devante Parker, WR, Louisville
Offensive line and wide receiver are arguably the Rams’ two biggest areas of need. They were just sniped on Scherff in this scenario but there are still some very good offensive line options available. Tough call, but I see them opting for the third best wideout on the board, thereby removing Parker as an option for the Vikings as well. I had Parker to the Vikings in my very first mock back in January. Now that both of the players I had falling to the Vikings in my previous mock drafts are off the board, what will the Vikings do?

11. Minnesota Vikings – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
I’m defaulting to Waynes for the Vikings. The majority of mock drafts I have seen elsewhere in recent weeks have Waynes to the Vikings at 11 so this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Waynes was the fastest defensive back at the combine and has good length and cover skills. He’s not big, nor is he an accomplished tackler. But he doesn’t shy away from contact either, and Mike Zimmer can allegedly coach up any defensive back on the planet to improve his tackling. In that regard this is a perfect fit. I list cornerback as either No. 1 or 1A among the Vikings’ areas of need, with offensive line being the other. Here’s the deal, though: there are several other quality corners that the Vikings could choose from in Round 1. Heck, they could trade down and still get Waynes as long as they don’t move too far. I firmly believe the Vikings will be doing whatever they can to trade out of the 11 spot, move down and accumulate additional picks. That’s what Rick Spielman does. I think there is a better than 50/50 chance they don’t wind up picking at 11. Moving down and still getting Waynes would be ideal, obviously. Marcus Peters, Byron Jones and Kevin Johnson are among the other quality corner options the Vikings could move back and still get. There will be a number of offensive linemen with first-round grades left on the board if the Vikings move down as well. Were you hoping for a wide receiver? There are still a bunch of good ones left and the Vikes could easily get one in the second of third round, especially if they accumulate extra picks. For the purposes of this trade-free mock draft, however, I’ll go with Waynes as the third cornerback to ever be drafted in the first round by the Vikings.

Go to VikingsJournal.com for the rest of my mock draft as well as all kinds of NFL Draft Coverage plus early fantasy football rankings.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at Sportradar US, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

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