The Vikings have high hopes for Trae Waynes, who in his final season at Michigan State was a first-team All-Big Ten cornerback and a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is awarded to the top defensive back in college football.
But the expectations for Waynes in his rookie season should be tempered, coach Mike Zimmer indicated during the team’s minicamp last month.
Although Waynes was among the fastest players timed at this year’s scouting combine and has coveted measurables at 6 feet and 190 pounds, the Vikings do not plan to hand him a starting job at the onset of the regular season.
With Xavier Rhodes entrenched as the starting right cornerback, veteran Terence Newman was on the left side for the first-team defense throughout the spring. Captain Munnerlyn, a starter last season, could also be in the mix to start once healthy.
Waynes, meanwhile, spent the spring practices open to media practicing with the second-stringers, and he was often lined up in the slot, something new for him.
“We’re asking him to do a lot of different positions, play a lot of different coverages,” Zimmer said. “I think he’s starting to understand things better. Because we are playing him in a few different places, he’s still sometimes unsure of what he’s supposed to do and where he’s supposed to be at. But I like him.”
Waynes thrived under the tutelage of Mark Dantonio’s staff at Michigan State, where he started 27 games in three seasons and became one of the top cover men in the country. Zimmer was all over Waynes throughout the spring, but the soon-to-be-23-year-old likes his new coach.
“I don’t think there’s a time when he’s not coaching you up. But that’s good, though, because I know he’s going to make me a better player,” Waynes said. “He’s on me all the time. Like constantly. But it’s all good.”
It typically takes cornerbacks at least one season to get acclimated to life in the NFL. Rhodes, whose development skyrocketed in his second season, was no exception.
Waynes will receive a starting role eventually, likely sometime during the 2015 season. And the Vikings are hopeful that once he gets the hang of NFL competition, he will team up with Rhodes to give the Vikings the top cornerback duo in the division.