CFF Player Profile: Trae Waynes, CB
The 2015 cornerback class is definitely an interesting one to look at, with what starts to look like an underwhelming group at the top, slowly turning into a class where there is a decent amount of depth. What the class lacks are many players who look like they could develop into true shutdown cornerbacks, but there are plenty of players who look like they can become solid No. 2 and nickel cornerbacks.
The player most people seem to have at the top of their boards at the position is Michigan State’s Trae Waynes but, as you’ll know if you have seen our mock draft either here or on the PFF “Grading the Draft” show on NBC Sports, we wouldn’t draft him in the first round. That’s going to surprise a lot of people, especially given how fast he looks on the field, so let’s break down why he doesn’t crack the first round for us.
Overview and Stats
Waynes had a solid 2014 campaign, finishing the season with the 31st-ranked coverage grade of all the cornerbacks in this draft class. That might now seem that high, and it’s not as impressive as other players at the position, but he didn’t have a lot of bad games throughout the season, just only one game where he really impressed. That was the game against Penn State where, despite being targeted seven times, Waynes allowed just one reception for 13 yards, coming away with an interception and allowing a QB Rating of 0.0 on those throws into his coverage.
He only allowed one touchdown all season, but did have five games where he allowed at least one reception of 20 yards or more. His interception and pass breakup numbers don’t jump at you either, with just three of each over the course of the year, while he allowed an average of 14.9 yards per reception.
The stats don’t paint Waynes as the top cornerback in this class like many people seem to think, but what does the tape say. Well, the first thing you notice about Waynes is his straight-line speed. In a draft where there aren’t many cornerbacks who possess impressive pure speed, Waynes is one who does. His speed allows him to cover downfield with few receivers giving him problems in terms of just being able to burn past him.
Where Waynes struggles, however, is with short-area quickness. While his 40-yard dash time of 4.31 was impressive at the combine, his 20-yard shuttle time was slower at 4.39. That’s concerning, and his struggles to change direction at pace are evident on film.
He has the recovery speed to avoid being beaten deep, but how much he struggles to change direction is a big reason why he didn’t do so well on intermediate routes, and why he allowed 14.9 yards per reception in 2014. That’s a problem given how many receivers he’s going to see in the NFL who are shifty as well as fast and, without a massive improvement here, he’s going to be beaten routinely by double moves at the next level.
The concerns with Waynes don’t end there unfortunately, and he looks to lose concentration at times. Sometimes it’s because he’s staring down a receiver that he fails to spot where the ball is, as evidenced by just three interceptions and three pass breakups. This also impacts his play against the run, where too many times last season he was caught focussing so much on his receiver that he failed to spot it was a running play until very late. Likewise against pick plays, where his struggles to notice what’s happening on the play resulted in too many completions in that regard.
Waynes is very fast in a straight line, and some teams are going to fall in love with that. It’s easy to see why, especially in a league where the passing game grows and grows each year. However any team drafting Waynes needs to be aware that his game still needs a lot of work. Unless he can improve his change of direction and his overall awareness on what’s happening around him, all the deep speed in the world won’t matter as teams will attack him with double moves and quick routes to take advantage of the weaknesses in his game.
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