Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
Hey everybody. I think part of the draft is always about, number one, picking the best players for your football team and part of it is luck, that guys that you really like are still there. A lot of it was a little of both tonight, so far. First of all, the amount of work that our scouts, Rick (Spielman), George Paton and all of those guys have done has been tremendous on everybody in the draft. We did a whole bunch of work on obviously, Trae Waynes and to me, it's extremely important that you have guys with great character, great leadership, great competitors and then obviously, the athletic ability that he has. That's always been big to me and everybody says that I love corners, and I guess I do, but I love good football players more than I love corners. I felt like he could help us a whole lot in a lot of different ways. Everybody bases the Pro Bowl on how many interceptions you get and you may get six or eight interceptions a year, whereas, my whole mentality is how many times do you deny your guy the football? You have the chance to do that 40 times a ball game, maybe. So, I think that's important for our corners that we have here with the Vikings.
Q: Do you anticipate Trae Waynes to compete for a starting job right away?
A: I anticipate everybody to compete for a starting job.
Q: Trae Waynes came in at 186lbs. at the Combine. Do you think that he needs to gain weight?
A: No, I think it's natural prototype for corners, 185 pounds that are starters in the league, so he's got good height, good speed. I don't worry about the 186lbs. I worry about if they can cover.
Q: Is there a player that Trae Waynes reminds you of?
A: I don't like making comparisons to guys because it kind of pigeonholes them. He's got length like Stephon Gilmore, he kind of reminds me a little bit of him. They're different guys. I actually went to his work out, but that's kind of a little bit of who he reminded me of.
Q: Xavier Rhodes faced a learning curve, drawing the line between being physical and getting penalties – do you think that's something that Trae's going to have to work through?
A: I think when all college corners when they come into the NFL, the rules are so different where you can put your hands on receivers. Trae has a little bit of grabby up the field, which we'll have to correct. He does a good job in press, but there's some things that I see on tape that I want to address with him. But he's got the great size and the length, and he's done a great job. Michigan State does a great job in teaching these corners anyways. They've done it for a long time.
Q: What did you learn about him on your trip to Michigan State?
A: It's just seeing these guys with my own eyes. I go out here at practice and watch them and then I can kind of visualize in my mind what they would look like compared to the rest of the guys.
Q: What stood out to you as you looked through some of the top cornerbacks?
A: I think his overall game is the combination of everything. He's got great speed, he's 4.31, he's 6-0 and it's hard to find 6-0 corners nowadays. There's a few in this draft this year, but to get big corners that can run and have good change of direction, they are hard to find.
Q: Do you look at the potential to pair Trae with Xavier Rhodes, having two tall corners going forward here in the future?
A: Not so much the tall part. I mean, obviously you want to get as big of guys as you can that can still play the positions. It was more about finding another good, solid corner as we go into the future, yes.
Q: What were your thoughts when the Bears made their selection at No. 7?
A: I was glad they didn't take Waynes. Really.
Q: Does having Trae Waynes and his height make you feel better after the Bears selected Kevin White?
A: Yeah, it's nice to be able to have height against height. You can probably write it down that we're not going to take any 5'9 corners here. Rick (Spielman) and I have talked about that many times. I like big guys.
Q: At what point during the process did you think that Trae Waynes is a guy that you would like to have on the Vikings?
A: It's been ongoing for quite a while. It's not so much, "It's this particular guy." It's this group of guys that we think would really fit. Chicago might have taken him, so you have to have three or four guys. I know for the last week, we've been kind of sweating it, that he might go before we get a chance to pick.
Q: Are you able to stay calm as the picks gets closer to yours, or do you get amped up?
A: I'm pretty calm. Sometimes, when one of the guys that I like goes, it's like "darn it."
Q: That's it?
A: Kind of. Kind of like that.
Q: I know you really covet smart, intelligent players in the secondary, especially. Was there anything specific you saw in Trae during this pre-draft process?
A: Well, we had him in for the Top 30 (visit). I sat him down and talked to him for quite a while. All of our coaches, George Edwards, talked to him about defense, schematics and learning. So did Jerry Gray. We have a process that we go through that each one of these guys that come in, come in and talk to us for quite a while. I sat and talked to him for a long time, as well.
Q: As Rick was looking at possible trades, were you trying to talk him out of trading?
A: No, not really. We tried to figure out the scenarios. If we move, what would happen if for instance, Trae Waynes would not be there? Or the options that we would go to and what's the value of moving back to getting this next player, if he's there, and how many spots you move back and maybe three of them are gone. So a little bit of it is value and a little bit of it is those guys, as you know, probably better than I, throughout the years have done a great job moving around and making trades. They're pretty prolific up there. Rob Brzezinski and George Paton get on the phone and the make the deals, along with Rick. So, they're pretty darn good at it.
Q: Does adding another talented cornerback like this allow you to do things more schematically that you weren't able to do last year?
A: Yes. Depending on how fast this guy matures and how fast he gets into the NFL game and all of that stuff. When you don't have to worry too much about the corners – these guys got them covered – you don't have to give them much help, you don't have to cheat the coverages; you can do numerous things that allow you to attack offenses. But when you have to help a guy or protect a guy, use some more of your guys than you really would like to, then it makes it more difficult, yes.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman
We are very excited about our draft pick. It was funny as you sat there and watched the draft unfold, there wasn't a lot of movement or a lot of trades. We did have a lot of activity that came up to us, but as you sit there and went through it, we had Trae Waynes very high on our draft board and some of the offers that we potentially had to trade down, we didn't feel that the value was there. So, as much as you like to do some movement and things like that, when there is a player there that you covet, and figuring how far you can move down and potentially losing that player, it's not always worth it just to make a trade to make a trade. When Trae fell to us, like I said, we listened to a couple of offers and the value wasn't there in our opinion and we got a very good player. We spent a lot of time with Trae this offseason, we spent time with him at the combine, myself and Coach (Mike) Zimmer personally went to Michigan State to work him out and spent time with him there, he was here on our top 30 (visit). When you look at his physical traits, the length, the speed, the ability to play man coverage fits exactly what we are looking for in corners in this scheme. The most important thing, and I talked about it in my press conference earlier, was that you want to get players, offensively and defensively, that are going to have the chance to excel with what type of schemes that we run on both sides of the ball. We are very excited to get Trae and can't wait to get him started.
Q: In looking at the NFC North, did you try to pair Trae Waynes with Xavier Rhodes?
A: Yeah, to get two young corners like that and you watch Chicago take the receiver from West Virginia, to knowing the receivers that we face in Green Bay and knowing the receivers we face in Detroit, to have to young corners that I know this staff has done a tremendous job of helping our young guys. To get another young player on that side of the ball, especially a player at a position that is in Coach Zimmer's wheelhouse. We are going to have to play some good defense and we were able to really improve last year, and I think adding a player like a Trae Waynes will definitely upgrade our defense.
Q: Is the expectation for him to start right away?
A: You could ask Coach Zimmer that, I know we signed Terence Newman and we have Captain Munnerlyn, we have Josh Robinson, we have a lot of depth at corner right now. Corners take some time to develop, he is not going to be pushed into starting right away, that will be determined as we go through this offseason program, as we go through training camp, how quickly he comes along, but we also have the luxury with the depth that we have at the cornerback position and if he is ready, the coaches will determine when he is ready.
Q: From a skill set standpoint, what stood out to you about him over Marcus Peters, Kevin Johnson, some of the other top corners in this draft?
A: I felt they were all very talented, but I think when you add everything in that goes along with him, not only the player that you see on the field, but also the character, the work ethic, you talk to the coaches at Michigan State and the type of kids that come out of that program, not only are great character guys, but they are NFL ready players. We talked to Pat Narduzzi, who is now the head coach at Pitt and I know Coach (Mike) Priefer who is really close with him, just talked to him and told him not only what he does on the field, but looking into his work habits, how important a game is to him, does he play with passion, does he miss practice, and just going down and checking all of the boxes, Trae Waynes hit every box that we were looking for when we draft a Minnesota Viking Player.
Q: Why do you think there weren't any moves in the first 10 picks?
A: I think it came down to, and I kind of alluded to it in the press conference earlier, is that the talent was so close this year, where I don't know the difference between the eighth and 20th pick. Teams have their boards drafted the same, but it seems like if they get their guy, and everybody may have their draft board differently, like we had Trae Waynes definitely as one of the top defensive players in this draft. When the opportunity came, when he fell to us, like I said, it wasn't worth trading down to potentially lose him.
Q: Did you think any team ahead of you would take him?
A: A couple of teams, but they you sit there and you study, you study other team's needs, and what other teams have done in the offseason, who they've added in free agency, what potentially they are looking for that they weren't able to add in free agency and as you started to look back at some teams behind us, how far could you move back and knowing that you are probably going to lose this guy. We just felt that we didn't want to lose a player of this caliber. With as much as the emphasis is now in the NFL on being able to cover people and corners, and I think you are going to see a couple of more corners go before the day is out. The overall package with Trae Waynes was everything we were looking for.
Q: Could you talk about some of the things that you liked about Trae Waynes, and what he does well and some of the things you felt he needs to work on?
A: I think the biggest thing is, there is no question about the athletic skill set, there is no question about his ability to play press-man. We haven't seen him a lot in off coverage because they play a lot of man-coverage and they play a lot pressed up to the line, so some of that may be a little new to him. I love going to workouts with Coach Zim, because he coaches the heck out of those kids in the workouts and he sees how they respond. So, there are some technical things that he'll have to work on. Those are just little tweaks here and there on his feet or his shoulders, or down coming out of breaks. Just little technical things, all of the physical attributes are there to do it, it's just cleaning that part up. I know Coach Zimmer, George Edwards, and Jerry Gray take great pride into getting those guys. Just the example of how far Xavier Rhodes came in a year, and how far he came from a technical standpoint. He is more than willing enough and tough enough in run support, but the biggest thing is the athletic traits are there to fit well in this scheme.
Q: Will you guys try to actively get back in this first round?
A: To be honest with you, I don't think we will be able to. We don't have enough currency; I guess that's the best way to put it, to get back into the first round. If I would have made a trade down, I was looking to see what the value was and if that would give us some more to get back in the first, but when the value wasn't there and you know what they were offering you still wouldn't be able to get back in the first, then I didn't think it was the right thing to do.
Q: Are you still not interested in trying to move Adrian Peterson around?
A: No, not at all. Nothing has changed with Adrian. End of story.
Q: Did any teams call about Adrian?
A: I'm not getting into who called or not called. Adrian Peterson is under contract as a Minnesota Viking. End of story.
Q: Were you looking to get more knowing that Trae Waynes was a player that was
high on your board?
A: I just felt that with the value of the player, that it would have taken pretty good compensation for us to do something.
Q: What was it about Trae Waynes that made you feel comfortable selecting him?
A: I think that when you sit through, especially with the players that our coaches bring in the top 30, our coaches spend an hour and a half with them. They watch tape and they teach them schemes. One of our big points of emphasis is that not only do they love to play the game of football; are they competitive and how smart they are? When we bring players in, especially in the top 30, that we have a strong interest in, not only in the first round but throughout the draft, that is one thing that I ask the coaches is, can he learn the system and do you feel comfortable enough that if we draft this guy, he's going to be the fit that we're looking for across the board. That includes the intelligence part, and there is no question about Trae Waynes and him fitting everything that we are looking for in a football player.
Q: Michigan State's defense is unique. Do you see any challenges with evaluating him?
A: They are a very disciplined football team. It's fun to watch them play as a unit, because of how sound and disciplined they are. I think that they do a great job at Michigan State on developing their guys and developing in their system. To me, it's an advantage when you get a guy from Michigan State, especially in our situation, on a defensive side, that it's going to be well coached coming out. Not that all of these kids coming out aren't well coached, but at Michigan State, they do an exceptional job with their kids.
Q: Captain Munnerlyn struggled a little bit on the outside last season, how did that factor into the decision of bringing in a new corner?
A: If there was another position or something, we're going to take the best available player.
That factors into it because we knew we wanted to add a cornerback at some point in the draft. Like I said, the board started to develop and when it came down to our pick, Trae Waynes was the best player available for us at the time. You're not only filling a need, but you're filling the best player available on the draft board.
Q: There are a lot of character guys in the draft this year. Did you red flag more guys with character this year?
A: I think every team is very conscientious of that. I know that we've always tried to do our best in identifying character guys and if they are going to fit or not fit in our scheme and in our locker room and in our organization. Is it going to be someone that our fans are going to be proud of that we bring in here? We really put a point of emphasis on that, so some of those players that maybe had character risk on them, we spend an extremely long amount of time with those players and made decisions based on "Yes we want this player" or "No we don't want this player." There's always going to be guys that do come out, young people make mistakes, and you have to try and make the best determination you can, if he's learned from that mistake and if he's going to be able to mature and grow up.
Q: Was there more heightened awareness this year?
A: I think there's more heightened awareness. I don't know if I'm going to get into that. I think that you're just more conscientious of making sure that you're trying to get the best people in here as possible.
Q: Do you think some of the guys with character problems allowed you to get Waynes, because they dropped out of the top ten.
A: I don't know that, I couldn't tell you that. I can't tell you how other teams view players or what their tolerance is for potential character risk.
Vikings Cornerback Trae Waynes
Q: What are your thoughts on being selected by the Vikings?
A: I'm so excited. It's such a great feeling. I can't wait to get to Minnesota so I can get working.
Q: Was it pretty easy to tell through the process that the Vikings liked you a lot?
A: I mean, it was obvious that they liked me, but it's a process and I had to keep an open mind.
Q: Did Coach Mike Zimmer work you out hard when he got the chance?
A: Yeah, he definitely was pushing me. I knew he was making me a better player, so I'm all for it.
Q: Have you had the chance to watch the Minnesota defense play?
A: No, I haven't really had the chance to watch a lot of NFL teams play because I was focused on school and I was worried about my own future.
Q: Did you have a pretty good feeling about the Vikings, that there was maybe a ceiling for you?
A: I had a great feeling when I went and visited some of them. The coaches are great and I got along with them great. I know they're all about that business and it's a really good feeling.
Q: Were you relieved that you were picked before Melvin Gordon?
A: Was I relieved? No. We both worked for it and have respect for each other, no matter who is ahead of us. I'm glad I was able to go first, but I was really glad to see him get drafted as well.
Q: Was there ever a time after your injury in high school that this day may never happen?
A: No. I never gave up and I stuck with competing to do something that I love to do. I just kept pushing forward and stayed positive.
Q: How would you define your strengths and weaknesses?
A: I'm a competitor. Obviously, that's just a weakness but hopefully, I can turn those into strengths.
Q: When you worked out with Coach Zimmer, what were some of the technical aspects of your game that you went over?
A: We went over a couple of things, like how I came out of my breaks and just a couple of other little things.
Q: What kind of influence was Darqueze Dennard on you?
A: He had a lot on me. We competed against each other every day and he's a great corner. He shaped me into the corner that I am today. He was just here today and I was talking to him. He helped me through the process and helped keep me calm and collected.
Q: What were your impressions of Mike Zimmer compared to the other coaches that worked you out?
A: He's a DB guru, that's the one thing I took from him. He's a good coach and he knows what he's talking about.
Q: What makes him a guru?
A: He coached up Deion (Sanders), he coached up some other good corners, as well. If he can make me into half the player Deion Sanders is, I think we will be pretty good.
Q: Were you a Packers fan?
A: No, I was a player's fan. I didn't have a favorite team; I watched the players.
Q: You were a Vikings fan growing up too?
A: I liked players on the Vikings, but I just watched the players not necessarily teams.
Q: Compared to your expectations of this day, how has it turned out?
A: It was great. I really didn't have a lot of expectations because I tried to keep an open mind about the whole thing. I'm glad it worked out how it did and I'm excited to get to Minnesota.
Q: Is there anyone you look to model your game after?
A: No, I just look at all of the corners and see what they do that makes them corners. I try to incorporate that into my game as much as I can.
Q: What skillset do you have that you think fits into Mike Zimmer's defense?
A: I can press and do all of that stuff. I feel like I'm pretty diverse and will be able to play however he wants me to.
Q: Are you going to try to state your case to start at day one?
A: Of course, like I said, I'm going to compete and even if I don't, I know that the competition will make me better as a whole.