I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
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Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State - 6'0, 186 - RS Junior - 4.31 40
We begin our examination of the available corners in this draft with the belle of the ball, Trae Waynes of Michigan State. This guy has been the top corner for most of this process and combines the beautiful duo of ideal height and incredible speed. If you can do that in today's NFL and then even offer just a little bit of feel for the game of football, you are going to be in the mix for the top few rounds. If, instead, you play like Waynes who appears to be cut from the perfect cloth for this particular job of being on an island with someone who shares his elite athleticism, then you might have a guy who must be grabbed in the first dozen or so picks. To look at Waynes, I grabbed four games: Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, and the Cotton Bowl against Baylor.
What I liked: He absolutely plays corner in a way that appeals to those of us who love football. He plays press man coverage most of the time. He plays with physicality and aggression and borders on being too physical as a player tries to get out of his route. Yes, that will draw the occasional penalty, but if the best way to stop a Dez Bryant-type is to never let him get comfortable and make it a battle at the top of the stem constantly, then I like how Waynes sees the game. He also has impressive ball skills to find the QB and the ball that generally works for him as he is a bit of a ball hawk. He will tackle and generally gets the job done, although it might be hyperbole to say that this is his specialty. He travels to either side without any sort of a drop-off and also can work in zone concepts and more exotic coverages, but Michigan State doesn't hide what they want to do. Press your receivers and try to collapse the pocket. He also seems capable of the corner blitz from time to time, but competes at a very high level at all times. He even covers kicks. There is plenty to like.
What I did not like: He was attacked and did concede some ground against Antwan Goodley in the Cotton Bowl before getting lit up and having to leave the game (he did return later). He can get caught being over-aggressive from time to time (as any ball hawk has to guard against) and I am pretty sure that his technique is going to require a little cleaning up at the next level. He also drew a fair number of penalties because he does have his arms on you on every single route and if the referees are going to prohibit any downfield contact, he is going to draw some flags. Occasionally, he looks like he might not be the same player late in a game (Nebraska), but the sample sizes are too small to offer those accusations with much conviction. Despite his height, he is skinny, so those tackle attempts don't often have much behind them so unless he is squared up, he will struggle with guys running through his arms.
Summary: This is a real nice corner who satisfies all my questions about a guy to excel at the next level. He is literally able to run the routes for the receiver, before the receiver gets to where he is going. He can ride the hip and mirror his man with incredible ease. Now, there is no point in drafting a press-man corner if you just want to play soft man all day, so you would hesitate to frustrate your men by not allowing them to run the coverages that they are suited for (Dallas). That said, when someone lines up in the college game and presses the top receiver at the top schools every Saturday and wins way more than he loses, then runs a 4.31 at the combine with a 1.53 10-yard split, then you assume he doesn't make it to pick #20. Waynes is an exceptional player and is a better prospect for me than fellow Spartan Darqueze Dennard who went #24 to the Bengals last year in the 1st round. Pretty sure you won't find a better corner in 2015.