Is Trae Waynes is one of the biggest draft busts in Vikings history?
By Adam Patrick
When it comes to former Minnesota Vikings players that are regarded as NFL Draft busts by the team's fan base, guys like Troy Williamson, Christian Ponder, Laquon Treadwell, and Matt Kalil are some of the names that are typically mentioned first. But should Trae Waynes be in this group too?
Selected by the Vikings with the No. 11 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Waynes didn't even come close to meeting the expectations that were given to him when he entered the league.
Despite being a first-round pick, it took Waynes until his third season to become a full-time starter for Minnesota's defense, and even after he was a permanent fixture in the starting lineup, his performance was never able to get to anything more than an above-average level.
What went wrong for former Minnesota Vikings CB Trae Waynes?
As a rookie with the Vikings in 2015, Waynes was only on the field for 19 percent of the team's defensive snaps. Former Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer clearly felt that the rookie cornerback wasn't ready to make any sort of significant impact for the team on the defensive side of the ball during his first year in the NFL.
In his second season with the Vikings, Waynes was given more opportunities to help the defense, logging 60 percent of the team's defensive snaps and starting eight games. Still, his impact was minimal, and the young cornerback struggled to play within the rules, as he drew a total of seven penalties in 2016.
Waynes was finally given a chance to be a full-time defensive starter for Minnesota during the 2017 campaign, and his play out on the field during that season was easily some of the best work he did during his entire pro career. The former Vikings first-round pick finished the 2017 campaign with 65 tackles (four for a loss), 11 pass breakups, two interceptions, and one sack.
After that 2017 season, however, things started to trend back down for Waynes. He finished the 2018 campaign with PFF's 48th-best defensive grade among qualifying cornerbacks, and in 2019, he finished with PFF's 60th-best defensive grade.
In 2020, Waynes became a free agent, and instead of returning to Minnesota, he wound up signing a lucrative three-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals worth $42 million.
His performance didn't change much during his time with the Bengals. In fact, Waynes' tenure in Cincinnati went very poorly, thanks in part to injuries. Before the Bengals cut him in 2022, the former Vikings cornerback wound up only starting a total of four games in his two seasons with the AFC North team.
Waynes was in the NFL for seven years, and some might consider that to be too long of a time in the league for a player to be considered a draft bust. But in terms of where he was drafted (11th overall) and the expectations Minnesota had for him, it's very fair to call him a bust.
Have there been bigger draft busts in Vikings history? For sure (one former first-round pick didn't even make it to the preseason), but Waynes was definitely one of Minnesota's all-time draft failures.