First round picks like Trae Waynes, who was selected 11th-overall in this year’s NFL Draft, are supposed to inspire confidence when they first step foot on the field. They’re college football’s best players, and many rookies have gone on to find instant success in the NFL. Teddy Bridgewater, Odell Beckham Jr., and Todd Gurley are just a few of the league’s most recent rising stars.
For Waynes, though, the transition hasn’t been quite as smooth. His first game action, a preseason matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers in August, highlighted everything that worried analysts before the draft. Grabbiness, struggles in zone coverage, and poor short-area quickness were on full display, and it became clear that Waynes wouldn’t be an instant success in Mike Zimmer’s secondary.
Zimmer spent much of training camp mentoring and guiding Waynes, working hard to eradicate bad college habits. He’s played sparingly this season, but Waynes continues to look more and more comfortable when called upon. On Sunday, he played a career-high 31 snaps after Terence Newman’s concussion forced the veteran out of the game, and Waynes looked solid in relief.
He was targeted four times, allowing two catches for eight yards. Patience appears to be paying off for Zimmer and Waynes. Though he was flagged for defensive pass interference (a ticky-tacky call) late in the game, Waynes doesn’t look like a deer-in-the-headlights on the field. He’s building on his strong debut against the Chargers and may slowly be earning the trust of Zimmer. With Terence Newman’s recent struggles and questionable status for Week 10, is it time to throw Waynes into a starting role?