I'm zipping through a few words on roughly 60 prospects in the two
months leading up to the '14 draft, concentrating on needs while knowing
the team will at least sell the Best Player philosophy, if not always
sticking to it.
Phillip Gaines - 6'0, 190. Gaines isn't a guy I've focused on much, but
here he is, running up the draft boards. He has a legitimately big
league skill set despite playing at small-school Rice (Conference USA).
His 4.38 (apparently as low as 4.31) 40 time belies his athleticism but
he's also very quick in the change of direction drills. He already
shows big-league skill, too. He's low in yards per route run, was only
targeted 40 times last year and only gave up 13 catches.
He has good technique, and fights for the ball in the air. He needs to
do a little better with route recognition, when it comes to going after
the ball - which would give him more shots at picking the ball off, but
he's also the type that isn't going to let you get open much. It
appears he needs to improve on his height in his backpedal and he wasn't
asked to do it much - so he ends up tall and might struggle to get in
Gaines works at tackling, and while he needs to clean up a bit, he's
Gaines is a very intriguing player with good instincts. He looks like,
in the right scheme, a guy who could become a shutdown corner, the type
you would alter your scheme to accomodate. He's got the instinct to
jump a route and the speed to recover.
The concern, reading his past, is staying on the field, with unrelated
injuries that have held him out for chunks of his career (all of '11,
part of '09), but there's nothing that really says he should stay hurt.
He should pack on some weight, too.
I think Gaines is a riser. I'd love to have him in the 2nd, but he's as
intriguing as Jason Verrett and Kyle Fuller with a higher upside than
The need here is obvious, Carolina needs another corner and the
defensive backfield still has no real longterm solution. Yes, the
safeties are signed for two years. Antoine Cason - to me, as good or
better than the other acquisitions, Roman Harper and Thomas Decoud - is
a one year, and there's no real talent to press Melvin White at the
other spot. There's no one to really take the nickel spot that's going
to make a difference on 3rd down. And the truth is, Carolina hasn't
put much talent back there.
I don't see Gaines here - he'll go higher because of his athleticism and
skill set than Carolina would be able to afford to spend. But Carolina
needs to invest a bit here.