The Pittsburgh Steelers might bring in Waynes for a pre-draft visit. Or maybe they saw enough Wednesday at Michigan State's pro day and simply hope that they have a chance at drafting the player who is widely considered the best cornerback in the draft.
Waynes ran the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds at the NFL scouting combine last month. He ran well in other drills at the Spartans’ pro day with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert and defensive backs coach Carnell Lake watching.
What pleased Waynes as much as anything: The 6-foot, 186-pound cornerback got a good review after his workout from close friend and former Spartans cornerback Darqueze Dennard.
“I’m just trying to be like him,” Waynes told reporters. “When I was here, he was one of those guys that was hardest on me just because he saw my potential early on and he pushed me to be the player I could.”
The Steelers might not have a chance to draft Waynes unless they trade up from No. 22 overall. They have only traded up once in the first round for a defensive player since Colbert joned the organization in 2000.
They drafted a transcendent talent in 2003 when they moved up from No. 27 to No. 16 to take Troy Polamalu. Waynes does not project as the same kind of game-changer, but the Steelers' need at cornerback is so acute that they could consider trying to move up in the first round to get a shot at taking Waynes.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay each rank Waynes as the 16th-best player in the draft. The overall need for cornerbacks in what has become a passing league could push Waynes into the early teens of the draft, if not higher.
And Waynes, who played just three seasons at Michigan State, said his best football is ahead of him.
“I feel like I tackle well and run with people, but everything can use improving, obviously,” he said. “I’m not at the best or highest level right now.”