Vikings pick Michigan State's Trae Waynes with No. 11

CHICAGO - No mocking the Vikings' decision to select cornerback Trae Waynes, whose telegraphed landing in Minnesota provided the least suspenseful moment of Thursday night's NFL draft.

Michigan State's Trae Waynes could be the first defensive back off the board in the 2015 NFL Draft. REUTERS

CHICAGO – No mocking the Vikings’ decision to select cornerback Trae Waynes, whose telegraphed landing in Minnesota provided the least suspenseful moment of Thursday night’s NFL draft.
Analysts were virtually unanimous in predicting Michigan State’s shutdown corner would go 11th to the Vikings, who coveted another physical defensive back to pair with Xavier Rhodes.
Waynes had a private workout with the Vikings after general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer attended his March 30 pro day in East Lansing, Mich.
With Waynes still on the board, Minnesota came on the clock about 8:30 p.m. at the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University. There was little doubt he would be the first defensive back selected in 2015.
“I didn’t really believe it when it first happened, but getting that call finally allowed me to breathe a little bit,” Waynes said. “It’s a dream come true being in the NFL and I can’t wait to get started.”
The 6-foot, 186-pounder is eager to work for Zimmer, a defense-minded coach whose specialty is in the secondary.
“I can’t wait. Coach Zim is a DB guru, and I can’t wait to see what kind of player he can turn me into,” he said.
Waynes’ speed made him a valuable commodity.
He ripped off a 4.31-second 40-yard dash, making him the fastest defensive back at the scouting combine. He also has a large wingspan that made him reliable in coverage.
His top priority likely will be transforming his technique as an aggressive press defender at Michigan State to NFL rules, which limit such contact with receivers.
“I’m a competitor,” Waynes said. “I went against big receivers, too, but y’all kept doubting me. I did OK. I adapted. I adjusted. I’m going to go against anybody. That’s my job. I’m going to prepare, and I’m going to do my best to take care of it.”
Waynes gives the Vikings more depth in the secondary. Besides Rhodes, they also have returning starters Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson, and they added 13-year veteran Terence Newman.
Munnerlyn figures to remain in the slot, where he struggled last season after losing the starting outside job to Robinson.
The Vikings play two of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL twice a season in divisional rivals Green Bay and Detroit, which boast physical receivers and prolific quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, respectively.
“I can’t wait to go up against all of them. They’re really great players,” Waynes said. “They’re just going to elevate my game and make me a better player overall. I can’t wait to step in and make an impact.”
Michigan State co-defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett said he expected his protégé to go to the Vikings, who diligently vetted Waynes throughout the offseason.
“He earned it, and he’s going to do well,” said Barnett, who played 31 games at defensive back for the Vikings in 1995-96. “He will give them everything he has. He has toughness. He’s going to play hard, play physical and he’s going to compete to win.”
Waynes became a starter for the Spartans at the end of his sophomore season in 2012, playing well in place of an injured Johnny Adams at the 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
He blossomed into the Big Ten’s dominant cornerback. ESPN draft analyst Mile Kiper Jr. predicted Waynes would become an All-Pro.
Waynes, a psychology major at Michigan State, grew up in Kenosha, Wis., between Milwaukee and Chicago. He was able to share Thursday’s experience with one of his best friends, Melvin Gordon.
The San Diego Chargers traded with the 49ers to move up to No. 15 and snatch Gordon, a Wisconsin running back.
The friends met at middle school and became teammates at Bradford High School in Kenosha. They became just the fifth set of high school teammates drafted in the first round in the same year since 1990 and the first set ever from Big Ten schools.
“It’s a great moment,” Waynes said. “He’s a great kid. I was more happy for him than myself just being able to see his dream come true as well. I met him on stage and the first thing he told me was, ‘It’s time to go to work.’ That’s the type of players we are.”
The St. Paul Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service

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