Last year I did a series I enjoyed where I tried predicted dark-horse candidates for the New York Giants' pick at No. 12. I chose five players who were not generally even discussed as top 15 guys who could be options for the Giants. Those players were Rashed Hageman, Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, Cyrus Kouandjio and Odell Beckham Jr. Many, many people did not see the pick of Beckham coming in our community or others. I also read through the comments and I, myself, undersold Beckham even though I mocked him to the Giants. Anyway, I digress.
The point I started out with is that we all love the Giants, and we are all excited about the draft because there is nothing else to look forward to in the near future, but at this time of year we have run into a little draft fatigue. Many of us have settled into our opinions of who we want there and have ruled out many other options because they don't fit a big need, or aren't top 10 players on the consensus boards, but that's not how the Giants see it. In fact, based on consensus big boards you could say the Giants "reached" for players in each of the last three years (Pugh was not 19th, Wilson was often considered an early-second rounder (though I also saw more than a couple of top 15, and Beckham was generally not in the top 12).
Today we'll discuss Michigan state cornerback Trae Waynes.
Waynes was considered one of the top cornerback prospects in a "red-chip" cornerback class, but then he ran very fast in underwear and people started to go back and say, maybe we undersold this extremely productive player who had a very fine career on the field at Michigan State and also happens to be very athletic. It was not just his combine that made him a potential top 20 pick. The lack of top cornerback prospects, his tenacity and production on the field, his fast 40-yard dash and measuring in at a legitimate 6-feet all upped his profile a bit more. Here's what an anonymous scout said about Waynes prior to the combine
"He's probably the best (corner) of the bunch," one scout said. "He can press and play off. He can run. He's got length. Very even-keeled. Good teammate. He's not going to talk trash. He does a lot of good things, but he doesn't have rare athletic traits. He could walk in and be a starter."
There are things in this snippet that scream potential Giants pick. First, there is a misinformed theory that is out there among mock-draft writers that the Giants like to address the trenches with their premium picks, but the truth of the matter is that the Giants like skill position guys. If you consider defensive back a skilled position (which I do) the Giants have used an astonishing six out of their eight first round picks on skill position players during the Jerry Reese era (Ross, Phillips, Nicks, Amukamara, Wilson, Beckham). The Giants may consider an offensive or defensive linemen for good reason, but the positional value that Waynes brings is terrific.
Second, he's a good teammate. The Giants have placed an emphasis on finding good teammates after a couple of drafts that produced less than spectacular results.
Third, Waynes should be an immediate starter, which is also something the Giants will want with a top 10 pick.
Waynes carries very favorable comparisons from draft analysts. I've seen him compared to Joe Haden (Bucky Brooks NFL.com), Antonio Cromartie (Lance Zierlein NFL.com), Kyle Fuller (CBS Sports).
Zierlein says Waynes "carries a very high ceiling," and that's something that should be something important for the Giants at 9. Waynes is a player who has been well-coached and productive in college, but also a guy who has the requisite abilities to have a career with multiple Pro-Bowl appearances. The other, and most important thing to keep in mind when considering if Waynes could be donning Giants blue in 2015 is the situation with Prince Amukamara. We have seen Reese draft for future needs often as the general manager for the Giants. Jason Pierre-Paul was drafted to take over for Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck when they departed, Cornerback was not the biggest need when the Giants selected Amukamara, Jonathan Hankins seems like he was drafted specifically in case Linval Joseph left for free agency. What happens with Amukamara remains to be seen, but as it stands today the Giants only have one cornerback they think is a full-time impact starter at the position past 2015.
Waynes is not the most logical pick, but in the right context he makes a lot of sense, which is why he is a dark-horse candidate for the Giants with the ninth pick in the 2015 NFL draft.