Trae Waynes: Let’s be patient with him


Through two games in his rookie season, Trae Waynes has seen exactly zero snaps on defense so far for the Minnesota Vikings.

And I’m just fine with that.

Maybe I’m just crazy, but I get the feeling that a large portion of Vikings fans are upset and/or confused by this. I mean, he was the 11th overall selection in the most recent NFL Draft. Generally, players drafted that high are expected to make some sort of impact right away. Sure, sure, Marcus Peters is doing that in Kansas City right now. Who cares? Whether you wanted Peters or Waynes, you have to acknowledge that Mike Zimmer seems to know what he’s doing when he’s coaching defense, and if he thinks he can make Waynes a good player, I’ll trust him over my irrelevant opinion.

Anyway, here we are now approaching the Vikings’ Week 3 contest against the San Diego Chargers, and Jabari Price returns from suspension to add yet another piece to the suddenly solid group of cornerbacks on the Vikings roster. Waynes likely falls behind Price as the fifth cornerback on the depth chart now, behind Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman, Captain Munnerlyn, and Price.

So, basically, what I’m trying to tell Vikings fans out there is this — Trae Waynes probably won’t see very much action this season at all, unless an injury bug bites more than one of the cornerbacks.

As weird as it may sound, this is a good thing.

Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer clearly have a plan set for Waynes. They thought highly enough to draft him 11th overall, probably based mostly on his physical attributes. This plan for Waynes includes a lot of technique work off the field before any big playing time in a game that counts. I, for one, trust Zimmer to know when Waynes is ready and has earned some snaps.

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In the preseason, Waynes certainly had his difficulties adjusting to the NFL. It wasn’t just the speed of the players and of the game in general, but to the rules regarding defensive backs contacting receivers. He incurred three penalties in just his first game as a pro, one pass interference and two defensive holdings. At the college level, Waynes was a pretty physical cornerback, contacting receivers as much as he could to help himself out. He was flagged quite a bit, while also getting away with some.

Aug 22, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes (26) celebrates his pass deflection against the Oakland Raiders in the third quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 20-12. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

In the NFL, the rules are completely different than in the college game. At Michigan State, Waynes could make contact with receivers anywhere on the field as long as the player was in front of him and the ball wasn’t in the air. On the contrary, the NFL allows no contact further than five yards past the line of scrimmage. This is undoubtedly a huge adjustment that all cornerbacks have to make once they turn pro, and it’s a big reason why cornerback is one of the hardest positions in football to transition from college to the NFL.

Waynes actually wrote an article for in which he explains how he’s going about the adjustments. In his piece, Waynes literally says he’s re-learning the position altogether. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a guy playing cornerback for my favorite team if he’s in the process of re-learning the position.

Don’t get me wrong, Trae Waynes has the potential to be a very good cornerback in the NFL. I’m in no way saying that he’s a bust or anything like that, because calling him a bust would be like if people called Aaron Rodgers a bust for not playing in his first few seasons. All I’m saying is that fans need to be patient with Waynes because the process takes a few years. Just ask Xavier Rhodes.

Remember Rhodes’ rookie season? Leslie Frazier didn’t even want to play him until injuries forced him to. When Rhodes was on the field, he was awful. Throughout the last two seasons, however, Rhodes has improved tremendously and is now on the brink of becoming a top five cover corner in the NFL. Now, Waynes may or may not get to that level, but it’s definitely possible with his athleticism and teaching from Mike Zimmer.

The bottom line here is that it’ll take some time for Trae Waynes to make the impact he was drafted for. If you’re willing to be patient about this whole process, it’ll make it much easier for you. You probably know a thing or two about patience, being a Vikings fan and all, so let’s give Waynes a break for now.

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