It’s interesting how the wheels keep on turning leading up to the NFL Draft. A month ago, the chips were falling and it was Brandon Scherff who was lining up for the Vikings with the 11th overall selection. Two weeks later, an apparent Louisville Cardinal reunion was in the works with WR Devante Parker slipping back to the 11 spot. Most recently though, the projections seem to fit right in line with what the duo of Zimmer and Spielman have been looking to build in Minnesota.
Take a peek around the web and one of the names you’ll regularly see falling to the Vikings at pick number 11 is Michigan State defensive back Trae Waynes. Adding to the speculation, the Michigan State pro day was held in East Lansing Wednesday morning and it’s safe to say that the Minnesota Vikings were well represented at the midweek event.
While they’ve both been busy traveling independently to pro days around the country both general manager Rick Spielman and defensive mastermind head coach Mike Zimmer were among the cohort of NFL representatives on hand to observe what the Spartans had to offer to this year’s NFL Draft class. Having both of them in attendance tips their hand a bit showing that there is something of great interest among the field. While the team doesn’t speak on the record about players’ performances leading up to the draft, one of Waynes’ former teammates at Michigan State made it seem like Waynes stole the show and turned some heads.
“I think he just sealed the deal,” Bengals rookie Darqueze Dennard told the Detroit Free Press Wednesday. “I think he just showed all the scouts and coaches who came here to witness the pro day that he's the best cornerback, the best defensive back, coming into the draft.”
Waynes started 27 games over three years for the Spartans, appearing in 36. Opting for the NFL after his Junior season, Trae will lean on the 3 interceptions, 8 passes defensed and 46 tackles recorded during his final season as he prepares to take the next step. By most accounts, his on field performance paired with his physical size (6’, 186lbs) is good enough to pin him as the first defensive back off the board this year.
Furthering the Vikings level of interest in pairing Waynes with third year DB Xavier Rhodes, the team has already scheduled an individual workout/meeting with him for mid April. But they’re not alone in that request. The Jacksonville Jaguars (3rd overall pick), Tennessee Titans (2nd overall pick) and Carolina Panthers (25th overall pick) have also requested meetings with the 22-year old prospect.
Waynes is a solid man-to-man defender but struggles from the same issue that Xavier Rhodes did early in his career, he’s pretty handsy and that won’t fly at the next level. Last season Rhodes started to figure it out a bit. Maybe that was the second-year growth curve, or maybe it was the implementation and coaching of Zimmer and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray. Either way, Minnesota would be a good situation for Waynes to land within.
The prospect of pairing the 6’0” Waynes with the 6’1” Rhodes in the Vikings secondary will serve this team nicely in a division where tall receivers are the norm.
With six weeks to go between the first round of the NFL Draft and today, the deck will surely be shuffled again. When a guy runs a 4.31 forty as Waynes did (the second fastest time at the combine this year), heads are turned. When they are already on everybody’s radar, decisions are solidified. All of that said, the Vikings at 11, are in a good position for Waynes to fall to them allowing them to get a great value pick, at a position of need, that will continue the projection of this team solidifying their defensive backfield and moving forward into the future.