Prospect of the Day: Trae Waynes

Michigan State CB Trae Waynes
6', 186 lb.
RS Junior

Bio
Rated the 73rd best CB in the nation (2011)
Rated the 14th best player in the state of Wisconsin (2011)
1st Team All-State and All-Region selection in senior year (2010)
1st Team All-County honors as an outfielder in junior year (2010)
Hit .452 with three home run, eight doubles, three triples
25 of 26 stealing bases
Finished third in the 100 at Wisconsin State Division 1 meet
Indoor track champion in the 60- and 220 yd. dashes (2010)

Honors
2nd Team All-American (2014)
1st Team All-B1G (2014)
Honorable Mention All-B1G (2013)
27 consecutive starts at cornerback
Semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award (2014)
MSU's Jim Adams Award recipient - team's unsung hero (2014)
MSU's Tommy Love Award recipient - team's most improved defensive player (2013)
Combine Measurements
Arms: 31"
Hand: 8 ¼"
40-yd dash: 4.31 secs
10-yd split: 1.53 secs
Bench press (reps of 225): 19 reps
Vertical jump: 38"
Broad jump: 10'2"
3-cone: 7.06 secs
Short Shuttle: 4.39 secs

Texans analyst and radio sideline reporter John Harris unveiled his top 100 prospects for the NFL Draft. (Photos courtesy of AP)

Overall
In 2013, Waynes stepped into the Michigan State defensive starting lineup, opposite one of the best cornerbacks in the country, Darqueze Dennard. Teams licked their chops to attack the redshirt sophomore out of Kenosha, Wisconsin. As the season wore on, though, Waynes showed he was just as capable of locking down his side of the field as Dennard. But, in the 2014 Rose Bowl v. Stanford, he made a play that showed just how far he'd come in a year. Not to mention, it may have been the one play that got all of the scouts attention.

In the third quarter with the game tied, Waynes lined up to the defense's right with two receives his side. As usual, Waynes was aligned over the outside receiver Ty Montgomery in what looked like traditional quarters coverage. When the ball was snapped, Waynes bailed to a deep third, still responsible for Montgomery had he gone vertical in Waynes' deep third. But, Stanford WR Michael Rector was in the slot and was screaming down the seam as FS Isaiah Lewis was a bit late getting over to the middle third of the field. Waynes immediately recognized the situation, read QB Kevin Hogan's eyes and knew that this throw was going for six to Rector. But, it didn't. Why? Waynes sprinted over from his 1/3 of the field and leapt over the Stanford WR and came down with the pick.

Sophisticated passing teams and Big Ten don't often go in the same sentence so many looked forward to how Waynes would fare against a big time passing team like Baylor. The Bears didn't back away from the Spartan star and Waynes probably had his worst day of the year. Seemingly, his 4.31 at the Combine seemed to neuralize (think Men in Black movie) that performance. Early in the game, he gave up a catch to Antwan Goodley and then it seemed his confidence waned. He gave up a deep catch down the sideline. He allowed a curl route in front of him for a big gain. Baylor didn't back down the way most teams he faced all year did. Did it raise enough of a concern for teams to shy away early in the draft? Let's take a look.

Quote
"I just say who can get on [my] Bus, who are the top 10 guys that I've ever coached, Chris Gamble, Darqueze Dennard, guys like that. Trae is on that bus. All I can tell you is he's one of the best I've been around" - MSU HBC Mark Dantonio on Waynes being on The Bus - Dantonio's ongoing list of the top ten defensive backs he's coached in his career.

What to like
--Tough, competitive - fights for every throw his way
--A definite press corner
--Played a ton of quarters, so he spent a ton of time matchup on number one receivers - reading on the run, adjusting his coverage post snap as he'll be asked to do.
--Ability to adjust to the ball thrown down the field - 2014 Rose Bowl pick was Exhibit A
--Had three interceptions and only eight PBU - teams didn't challenge him much
--Runs down on special teams with some venom
--Extremely quick off the edge on corner cat blitz
--Uses hands properly, uses feet to match cuts, doesn't clutch and grab often
--Good play recognition - saw a reverse pass coming his way v. Ohio State, reversed direction and stayed in hip pocket of WR forcing the passer to pull it down and run.

What needs some work
--Off coverage - do not like to see him off - get up and press
--Ohio State receivers got him running up field and then "pushed off" to get wide open
--Must get stronger against stick/hitch/back shoulder throws when in press
--Won't remind anyone of Ronnie Lott tackling.
--Big, physical will be able to move him off the coverage with strength and technique - Baylor WR Antwan Goodley, in particular, used his strength and power to push off to get separation a few times in the Cotton Bowl.

Projection
Waynes reminds me a bit of Houston Texans CB Kareem Jackson, with the only true significant exception that Waynes ran a faster 40 at the Combine (4.31 vs. 4.4). Kareem had plenty of struggles as a rookie but because he was a smart and competitive player he eventually figured it out. That's the thing with Waynes; I saw him have some rough moments in 2013, then turned around and made plays in key games later in the season. The Cotton Bowl experience will be one from which he'll rebound. He'll learn from it and eventually, like Kareem, succeed at the NFL level. He's too competitive, athletic and smart to not figure out how to be a top notch cover corner. Which team will benefit from Waynes presence? Thursday night of draft weekend always has a few surprises in store, but I'd venture a guess, surprises aside, it's one drafting in the Top 12 of this draft.

Take a look at Trae Waynes' football career at Michigan State.

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