EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Party on, Waynes. Party on, Garth. Party on, Vikings fans.
Minnesota selected Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes with the 11th overall pick on Thursday in Chicago, a short ride in the "mirth mobile" from the Aurora, Ill., suburb where fictional Saturday Night Live characters Wayne and Garth hailed.
The reality is Waynes is the second cornerback the Vikings have drafted in the first round in a three-year span, joining 2013 pick Xavier Rhodes and is the fourth member of the secondary who was selected on an opening night (safety Harrison Smith, a 2012 selection, and corner Terence Newman, a recent addition in free agency).
"I'm so, so excited. It's a great feeling," Waynes said. "I can't wait to get to Minnesota."
On Tuesday, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said he would be willing to consider dealing the 11th pick to move down and collect more picks, but he said Thursday that the offers from other teams didn't match the value placed on Waynes or the risk of not selecting the 6-foot-1 cornerback who clocked the fastest time of any corner at the NFL Combine (4.31 seconds).
"When you look at his physical traits, the length, the speed, the ability to play in man coverage, it's exactly what we're looking for from corners in this scheme," Spielman said. "The most important thing I talked about in my press conference earlier was that you want to get players offensively and defensively that want to have a chance to excel with what type of schemes we run on both sides of the ball, so we're very excited to get Trae and can't wait to get him started."
Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who has incorporated cornerbacks into his defensive success, worked out Waynes at Michigan State in addition to spending time with him at the NFL Combine and during Waynes' visit to Winter Park as a Top 30 player, and he excelled in every evaluation.
"Part of the draft is always about picking the best players for your football team and part of it is luck that guys you really like are still there, so a lot of it was both tonight," Zimmer said. "First of all, the amount of work that our scouts and Rick and all those guys have done has been tremendous on everybody in the draft, but we did a whole bunch of work on Trae Waynes."
Waynes said he learned during the workouts that Zimmer is a "DB guru" and said he had positive meetings with Minnesota's coaches.
"I had a great feeling when I went," Waynes said. "The coaches are great. I got along with them great. I know they're about their business, and it actually was my first visit, so it was a real good feeling all around."
When asked if he expects Waynes to compete for a starting job, Zimmer said he expects every player to compete for a starting job. Waynes said he plans to do so.
Waynes' value may have even increased, given that five of the top 10 receiving yardage leaders in the NFC in 2014 are returning to the NFC North. There's Green Bay's duo of Jordy Nelson (second, 1,519 yards) and Randall Cobb (seventh, 1,287 yards), Detroit's Golden Tate (third, 1,331 yards) and Calvin Johnson (10th, 1,077 yards) and Chicago's Alshon Jeffery (ninth, 1,133). The Bears also drafted receiver Kevin White four picks before Waynes to replace departed Brandon Marshall.
"To have two young corners with this staff, they've done a tremendous job with developing our young guys, and to get another young player on that side of the ball and a player at a position that's in Coach Zimmer's wheelhouse," Spielman said. "We're going to have to play some good defense, and we were able to really improve last year. Adding a player like Trae Waynes will definitely upgrade our defense."
Multiple experts ranked Waynes as their top corner*in the field, and severalmock drafts* and their variations continued to predict the Kenosha, Wisc., native would cross the border into Minnesota.
Zimmer said it's "extremely important to have guys who bring character and great leadership, and great competitors and obviously the athletic ability he has. That's always been big to me."
"Everybody says I love corners. I guess maybe I do, but I love good football players more than I love corners," Zimmer said. "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, I look at penalties and how many times you deny your guy the football and you have the chance to do that 40 times a ball game, so I think that's important for our corners here."
Rhodes, indeed, developed into one of the stingiest at allowing passes as last season progressed.
Waynes showed development over the course of his collegiate career.
After redshirting in 2011, Waynes found the field as a special teamer in 2012. He earned Michigan State's award for the most improved defender in 2013, when he helped Michigan State win the Big Ten title and had an interception against Stanford in the Spartans Rose Bowl victory. Waynes was a second-team All-American in 2014, first-team All-Big 10 by coaches and media and was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe award in 2014.
Waynes started 27 of 36 games for the Spartans, recording 101 tackles (71 solo), four tackles for loss, six interceptions and 13 pass breakups.
Six of the previous 10 picks at the 11th overall spot in the NFL Draft were defenders:
2005 — DeMarcus Ware, LB, Troy, Dallas
2006 — Jay Cutler, QB, Vanderbilt, Denver
2007 — Patrick Willis, LB, Mississippi, San Francisco
2008 — Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy, Buffalo
2009 — Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State, Buffalo
2010 — Anthony Davis, T, Rutgers, San Francisco
2011 — J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin, Houston
2012 — Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis, Kansas City
2013 — D.J. Fluker, T, Alabama, San Diego
2014 — Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan, Tennessee
View images of Trae Waynes from his week in Chicago, including visits at community events and of course from draft night on stage.
Waynes became the third player in franchise history to be drafted 11th overall, joining DE Derrick Alexander in 1995 and QB Daunte Culpepper in 1999.
The first 10 players off the board — because what's a *Waynes World *reference without a top 10 reference? — Thursday night were:
- Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State, Tampa Bay
- Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon, Tennessee
- Dante Fowler, Jr., DE, Florida, Jacksonville
- Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama, Oakland
- Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa, Washington
- Leonard Williams, DT, Southern Cal, New York Jets
- Kevin White, WR, West Virginia, Chicago
- Vic Beasley, OLB/DE, Clemson, Atlanta
- Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami, New York Giants
10.Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia, St. Louis Rams
The draft is scheduled to resume at 6 p.m. (CT) Friday with the second and third rounds. The Vikings enter the day with the 45th and 76th picks.