Phillip Gaines – 6’1″ – 185 lbs – Rookie – Rice
In a move that now makes even more sense, the Chiefs passed up many good prospects at positions of perceived need (WR, OL, S) when they drafted Phillip Gaines in the third round of the draft last month. While Gaines may not have experience playing against big time competition, he does possess the physical tools that the Chiefs appear to look for in their outside CBs. His combination of height (6’1″) and speed (4.35 forty) make him an intriguing prospect. While there hasn’t been the same endless stream of praises coming out of OTAs for Gaines as there has been for top pick Dee Ford, it’s still early and you have to think that with Flowers gone the Chiefs must believe that Gaines will be able to contribute as a rookie. After all, if they wouldn’t hesitate to put a guy on the field that was a 7th round pick that they claimed off waivers right before the season (Cooper) surely they won’t hesitate to get Gaines out there.
So what type of player should we expect to see? Here are a few snippets from a couple of Gaines’ draft profiles:
Gaines is the fastest CB in the 2014 draft class and combines that natural speed with length. Skilled at matching up in man coverage and playing from the line. Mixes in press, bump and run, and press-bail looks and shows smooth transition skills. Gaines’ straight line closing speed allows him to play aggressive, knowing he can make up ground when the ball is thrown. Competitive and feisty at the catch point. Has broken up an impressive 38 passes over the course of his career. To this point Gaines hasn’t been challenged by the athleticism of opposing WR. If he wants to play the same way at the next level he’ll have to get stronger and more technique sound. – Mike Loyko’s 2014 NFL Draft Guide
Gaines has the size, length and aggressive nature to match-up well against receivers at the LOS to press, showing the footwork and redirection skills to flip and stick down the field, but he is inexperienced in his backpedal. He isn’t as physical as he looks and needs to refine his tackling technique, but he competes with the ball in the air and holds the Rice record for career passes defended (42) – just needs to come down with more interceptions. Gaines is patient and alert, but won’t take many chances and needs to continue to develop his instincts to stay on the field at the next level. – Dane Brugler’s 2014 NFL Draft Guide
So if the scouting reports are to be believed, Gaines is exactly the type of CB that the Chiefs are looking for, he just will have to put in the time to improve his strength and technique in order to be able to hang with NFL caliber WRs. If Gaines is a quick learner he could see the field a lot as a rookie (similar to Cooper last season). If Gaines struggles in camp and Smith and Cooper are healthy and producing as the starters on the outside then Gaines could end up being less of a factor unless he can prove capable of moving inside and covering the slot. His physical skill set seems better suited for the outside on paper so it will be interesting to see how things play out in training camp and the preseason.
Chris Owens – 5’9″ – 180 lbs – 6th season – San Jose State
Chris Owens was one of just a handful of offseason acquisitions that John Dorsey made this offseason. While Owens isn’t exactly a household name or big time CB, he did actually grade out higher with PFF (again, not that their grades are law) than Flowers, Smith, or Cooper did last season for KC. With Owens physical stature being noticeably smaller than the other CBs on this list, the assumption is that Owens was brought in to play in the nickel package and line up against slot WRs. This assumption appears to be correct if OTAs are any indication with reports having Owens largely lining up there thus far in practice.
I’ll admit to not knowing a lot about Owens so I don’t have any first hand insight to share and am looking forward to watching him in action in camp and preseason games. I may even give a few games of his from last season a watch on NFL Game Rewind if I can’t wait that long. However, in the meantime, I looked over his career grades from PFF. His yearly grades were as follows: 0.9 in 2009, -12.9 in 2010, -1.1 in 2011, 4.9 in 2012, and 2.2 in 2013. Owens may not be a Pro Bowl level player, but finishing with positive PFF scores in three of his five NFL seasons says that he belongs on a NFL roster. While I don’t think KC will ask Owens to start and cover teams top WRs on the outside, he could fill a valuable role if he can display solid coverage skills as a nickel back in the sub package.
Keep in mind, despite Flowers Pro Bowl selection he actually had a down year in coverage. If Owens can give KC a suitable replacement in the slot at a fraction of the cost the loss of Flowers will begin to be a lot less painful.
Ron Parker – 6’0″ – 206 lbs – 4th season – Newberry
Ron Parker is a little bit of a mystery as he heads into his first training camp with the Chiefs. Like Cooper, Parker was picked up by GM John Dorsey after he was cut by another team with an incredibly deep roster, the Seattle Seahawks. While Parker didn’t see the field near as often as Cooper, he did prove to be a valuable addition to the team. Parker was mainly a fixture on special teams, but he did look good in the limited defensive snaps that he received.
Parker was credited with 99 snaps on defense (for comparison Cooper had 722) with 64 of those coming in the week 17 game at San Diego when KC rested most of their regular starters. In those 99 snaps Parker received a +4.3 grade from PFF. Personally, I always came away impressed with Parker’s play and am anxious to see how he looks after having a full year of experience in the system. Parker is almost built more like a safety with a powerful build and one would think he’d excel in run support with seeing how he plays on special teams.
Since Sean Smith’s DUI arrest Parker (not Gaines) has been running with the first string with Smith demoted to the twos. This isn’t a surprise since Gaines is still learning the system, so if Smith does get a one game suspension I think it will be a contest to see which of those two get the starting nod. Reports from OTAs with Parker running with the ones haven’t been spectacular, but it’s really too early to make any kind of judgement. I would describe Parker as an intriguing special teams player who may have a chance to earn a bigger role, but it’s certainly not a guarantee.