Today, at the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing, MI., there figures to be a large Pittsburgh Steelers contingent, and for the same reasons they had a large presence at the Kentucky Pro Day last week. Just as outside linebackers coach Joey Porter and Mike Tomlin were on hand to get a closeup view at Alvin “Bud” Dupree at UK, secondary coach Carnell Lake, Tomlin and probably Kevin Colbert will be in attendance today to check out arguably the best cornerback in the draft, Trae Waynes.
Colbert has been on record saying this year’s draft, collectively, has nice depth at the cornerback spot, arguably the team’s most glaring need. It is important to note however that the highest corner the team has drafted since 2000 is Ricardo Colclough, their second rounder out of Tusculum in the 2004 draft.
“Never have we gone into a draft and said we can’t take a position here in the first round,” Colbert said.
While LSU’s Jalen Collins’ stock is soaring, and Washington’s troubled but talented Marcus Peters works to repair his image, it looks more and more like Waynes will be the first corner selected. Waynes lit the turf on fire at the NFL Combine, posting a 4.31 in the 40, the seventh-fastest for a corner at the event since 2003. He also posted an explosive 38-inch vertical, and showed impressive strength, putting the bar up 19 times, the best mark for a corner.
“I didn’t think anyone had a better combine than Trae Waynes,” said an NFC director of personnel. “He was faster than I thought and looked great in the drills. He’s the top corner and I don’t think it’s close.”
After learning the ropes from 2014 first rounder Darqueze Dennard, Waynes solidified himself as a top flight corner himself last season, recording 46 tackles, 3 picks, 8 passes broken up and 1 sack. He possesses excellent size and length for the position, and he exudes confidence, something a struggling Pittsburgh secondary could use an infusion of. He also plays downhill in run support, a must for the Steelers’ defense, as there doesn’t figure to be much change with the transition from Dick LeBeau to Keith Butler. He fits the profile for a bump-and-run corner with the ability to handle himself against some of the speedier receivers he’ll do battle with on Sundays.
The Steelers will more than likely be only watching Waynes participate in drills, and meeting with him, perhaps even setting up a pre-draft visit. However, it’s food for thought as to whether Waynes will even be there when the team goes on the clock at 22. The new University of Pittsburgh football coach, Pat Narduzzi, doesn’t seem to think so, and he should know-he was Waynes’ defensive coordinator at Michigan State prior to his new head coaching job. According to ESPN.com’s Scott Brown, Narduzzi thinks the team will have to trade up for Waynes, something the team has only done a handful of times in the last 15 years, most notably for Troy Polamalu. Regardless, Waynes can pretty much cement himself as the top corner in this class with an impressive showing at today’s pro day. Perhaps the front office will be checking out running back Jeremy Langford too, Le’Veon Bell‘s one-time understudy who could help shore up depth in the 5th or 6th round. But it will be no surprise who the main attraction to the team is.