2014 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Phillip Gaines

March 23rd, 2014

Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines has emerged as a Day Two draft prospect after a strong senior season (Photo: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

DraftBrowns.com Staff Writer: Justin Higdon

The Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks have raised the league’s collective awareness of tall, lengthy cornerbacks; but truth be told, “big and fast” never goes out of style. So it’s safe to say that even though Phillip Gaines was hidden from the general television audience at Rice University, he was on NFL radars well before a dazzling performance at the scouting combine last month.

Phillip Gaines CB

School: Rice

Height: 6’ 3/8”

Weight: 193 pounds

Hand: 9 5/8”

Arm: 31 7/8”

40-yard Dash: 4.38 seconds

Bench: 11 reps

Vertical: 36.5”

Broad Jump: 10’2”

Three Cone: 6.62

Short Shuttle: 4.04

60-yard Shuttle: 11.24

Date of Birth: 4/4/1991

Gaines was not heavily recruited out of high school in 2009, but he quickly became a starter for the Owls. As a freshman, he continued to play after suffering a broken wrist against Navy, but the injury ultimately cut his season short. Gaines returned to start throughout the 2010 season, but in 2011, Gaines’ season ended after five games due to a left a foot injury. The cumulative impact of the injuries on his career led the NCAA to grant him an extra season of eligibility, and Gaines made the most of his opportunities with impressive junior and senior campaigns. He remained healthy for the duration and proved disruptive in the passing game. In 2012 Gaines broke up 18 passes, and he finished this past season with four interceptions and nine pass breakups. By late in the 2013 season, Rice opponents were actively avoiding him in the passing game.

Gaines is an aggressive, physical player who is able to maintain tight coverage without grabbing the receiver downfield. He gets himself into good position and uses his height and leaping ability to gets his hands on the ball. Gaines is an intelligent veteran who avoids guess work in pass coverage. He demonstrates the ability to read the quarterback’s eyes without slowing down, and seems to know when to leave his man to help out a teammate. Gaines tracks deep passes well, and has excellent recovery speed to track down receivers when he does get overzealous with his initial read. Perhaps most importantly, Gaines has an excellent feel for defending the back shoulder pass – a staple of today’s offenses – and is able to at least minimize the damage on these plays.

Many cornerbacks tend to stand around the pile in run defense, hoping their help isn’t necessary. But Gaines’ aggression carries over in run defense. He is generally a strong tackler, but like many defensive backs he will be prone to a miss when he tries to throw a shoulder at the ball carrier instead of wrapping up. Gaines does not shy away from contact, so his issues in tackling are correctable, and his on-field demeanor will help him become an early contributor on special teams – often a must for rookie defensive backs.

Gaines is not without his question marks. He will be facing a steep jump in competition from Conference-USA quarterbacks to the NFL. And teams will not only be careful to make sure that he checks out medically, but they will also be interested to speak to him about the circumstances that led him to be suspended for the first game of his senior season. But unless some unexpected findings arise, Gaines’ combination of on-field performance and athletic prowess make it unlikely that he will make it out of the second round on draft weekend.

Draft Projection: Second Round

Game Notes:

Vs. Louisiana Tech (’13)

  • Aggressive – comes on a CB blitz and attacks a run play away from him – no hesitation
  • Lines up tight right at the line of scrimmage (LOS) – stays close and jumps the sideline (SL) out – close to a diving INT
  • Comes on a blitz and gets a hit on the QB hits after he lets go
  • Looking back and reads the QB’s eyes – rotates over, tracks the ball and picks it deep – excellent overall play
  • Tight coverage on a comebacker but can’t get the ball away from the WR
  • Gets out in front and throws a block on a punt return (PR)
  • Lowers a shoulder and delivers a blow on an incomplete pass underneath to the offensive right
  • Showing ability to read the QB and leaving his man to help out
  • Stayed close in coverage throughout the game

Vs. Marshall (’13)

  • Misses when he tries to check his man inside five yards
  • Pretty tight coverage and allows a catch in front – closes and tackles immediately
  • Follows the QB on a roll and closes quickly when he commits to attacking
  • Locking his man up for the most part – not being targeted
  • Nice play on the ball on a back shoulder pass and breaks it up
  • Tight coverage but gives up the back shoulder throw

Vs. Mississippi State (’13)

  • Nice awareness to scoop up a fumble down the field
  • Smooth athlete – can turn and run, stay with his man
  • Knifes in to make a tackle near the goal line (GL)
  • Reads the run and gets in for a tackle
  • Drops back into a zone and leaps to break up a pass in the end zone (EZ)
  • Gets over-aggressive and flies into the backfield and misses the tackle on a WR screen
  • Shows his speed racing back to the middle of the field to chase down the slot WR – gets taken out with a block to the back
  • Physical player and good recovery speed
  • Misses a tackle on a pass down the middle – tried to lead with his shoulder
  • Maintains coverage down the field on a flea flicker and makes a terrific adjustment to the pass – almost gets the INT but can’t hang on when he hits the ground

Tags: 2014 Cornerback Prospects, 2014 NFL Draft, 2014 Prospect Profile, NFL Draft, Phillip Gaines, Prospect Profile, Rice

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