After the 2014 NFL draft, the San Francisco 49ers have one big question mark at the cornerback position. Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes might be the answer for the 49ers in the 2015 draft. They are deep at that position but lack anyone with proven experience.
Their starters are Chris Culliver and Tramaine Brock and Culliver is heading into a contract year coming off a significant knee injury. Whether they let Culliver walk after this season or not, Waynes is going to be a legitimate option for the 49ers.
Waynes is tall, standing at 6-foot-1, but still needs to put some weight on his 185-pound frame. Last season, the Spartans had the top ranked defense in the Big 10 and Waynes played a big part in that as a first-year starter. This season he will play an even bigger part. He’s the fastest guy on the team and every bit of that speed shows up when you watch his tape.
With another year of development, Waynes could step into a big role right away with the 49ers. If they let Culliver walk, Waynes would be a serious option as a starter next season. If they decide to keep Culliver, Waynes has the agility and speed to step right into the nickel cornerback role. This year, the projected nickel cornerback is rookie Jimmie Ward. For Waynes to earn that spot next season, Ward would have to move into the strong safety position and replace veteran Antoine Bethea, which is a definite possibility.
Another area where Waynes would help the 49ers a great deal is in their return game. Right now, they have LaMichael James but I don’t see him staying with the team for the entire 2014 season and especially making it to see the beginning of the 2015 season. After him, their returner is most likely rookie Bruce Ellington. Having Ellington and Waynes competing for the return man position is not a bad place to be for a franchise.
The 49ers are already looking at players they might want to take in the 2015 draft and you better believe Waynes is on that list. He’s tall for his position, is extremely fast, has very good ball skills, and moves his hips very well. He could definitely end up going in the first or second round and if the 49ers could find a way to take him late in the second, it would absolutely be a steal. Michigan State is going to have an amazing defense again this season — look for Waynes to have an important role and get people talking about his NFL stock.