KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Two straight picks in the 2014 NFL Draft show the Chiefs addressing a glaring hole that ultimately knocked the team out of the first round of the 2013 playoffs.
Thursday brought outside linebacker Dee Ford, while Friday saw the Chiefs stay on defense with the selection of Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines in the third round (87th overall).
“He was the highest-rated player on the draft board as it was built,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said during Friday night’s post-draft press conference. “He has all the physical dimensions that we ask for in our corners.
“He’s long, he’s fast, he has long arms, he has 38 PBUs (pass breakups), which is a school record, he plays and tracks the deep ball well. I say there’s still a lot of upside with him.”
Listed at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, Gaines clocked a 4.38 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and fits the mold of the big cornerback the Chiefs covet under Dorsey. More importantly, Gaines fits what the Chiefs prefer to play against the pass under defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.
Speaking to Chiefs media members via a conference call, Gaines said Rice eliminated zone and off-man coverage, playing man-to-man a majority of the time.
“We pretty much played press-man I’d say 80 percent of the time,” he said. “We were in press‐man because they trusted me and the other corner, Bryce Callahan, with the abilities. We pretty much played press‐man all the time. I’m really confident in it.”
He’s also familiar with the team that drafted him.
“I’ve watched the Chiefs for plenty of years,” Gaines said. “My family is from Philadelphia, so they’ve said they’re huge Andy Reid fans. I’ve seen that whole scheme and everything. I’m just ready to go.”
Still, the native of Converse, Texas joins the Chiefs with character questions.
While in college, Gaines landed in trouble in 2011 following an arrest for a misdemeanor possession of two ounces or less of marijuana, leading to a sentence of one-year probation.
Gaines said he also failed a marijuana test in January 2013 that led to him being suspended the first half of the season opener against Texas A&M.
Dorsey said a team considers marijuana infractions on a “case-by-case” basis. And the Chiefs apparently don’t have lingering concerns over past transgressions.
“Early on he was young,” Dorsey said, “but he grew up. He’s a two-time captain at that school. To me that says a lot because he’s earned the respect back from the coaching staff, he’s earned the respect back from his teammates and he’s grown up as a man.”
For his part, Gaines accepted responsibility and is ready to move on.
“I’ve grown from it,” Gaines said, “so you live and you learn. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity and now I got drafted by the Chiefs. They don’t have anything to worry about that. I’m just ready to go.”
His durability history in college, which included a foot injury in 2011 that caused him to miss most of the season, is also no longer a concern.
“He’s been a two‐year starter,” Dorsey said. “His junior and senior year, he started both. He has played the last two years and he’s been pretty good.”
With a player eager to prove he belongs, the Chiefs may have found a middle-round nugget.
Gaines is a two-time, All-Conference USA selection and allowed an impressive 13 completions on 40 targets in his senior season. He led Rice with four interceptions in 2013, the most in his career.
While Gaines’ specific role on defense has yet to be determined, Dorsey said Gaines would contribute on special teams and indicated free safety could be a possibility.
“Ideally you’d have him play corner and compete at corner and add depth to the corner,” the general manager said. “As we all know, you can’t have enough good corners in this league and he sure adds another quality depth for us at that position.”
Regardless where he plays, Gaines is excited to be in the NFL.
Gaines added he looks forward to contributing in whatever role the Chiefs deem fit, and awaits the battles against some of the top competition in the league, including the quarterbacks in the AFC West.
“As a competitor, you always want to play against the best because that’s how you test yourself,” Gaines said. “You can’t test yourself going against just regular players.
“Peyton Manning being one of the best quarterbacks of all time, I can’t wait to go against people like him and just watching him play throughout his whole career understanding how he approaches the game, it’s going to be an honor to play against him.”
Notes: The Chiefs’ courtship of Gaines flew under the radar, and Gaines only recently discovered the full extent of the interest when the Chiefs called him … “They let me know they really liked the way I played and that was really it,” Gaines said. “They kept it quiet” … Gaines is three classes shy of graduating from Rice with a degree in economics … With 15 wide receivers drafted through three rounds, Dorsey remains confident in the wide receiver depth entering the final day of the draft … “I still think there are a few there to be had,” Dorsey said.