E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri (HT: 5’11”, WT: 195 lbs)
- Average height for a starting NFL cornerback, but he possesses a strong, muscular frame.
- Good distance speed that complements his physicality.
- Most comfortable in zone defense after primarily playing in a Cover 3 scheme.
- Able to force defenders to the sideline while in Cover 2, forcing receivers off of their route pattern. By moving the receiver closer to the sideline, there is a lesser margin for error for the offense.
- Excellent eye discipline and rarely allows the quarterback to lead him away from the target receiver. Reacting to the quarterback's eye movement and progressions is highly important in zone schemes.
- Stout against the run; he has the mindset of a linebacker.
- Good form tackler in space; mirrors the ball-carrier, then wraps and follows through the tackling motion.
- Experience as a boundary corner and nickel back, often switching between spots on subsequent defensive series.
- Plays larger than his height suggests; he always contests passes, even against large receivers.
- Difficult to see Gaines wash out of the league since he does everything at least decently.
- Low-ceiling, high-floor player, but there is value in a depth player that is willing to play hard on special teams.
- Three-year starter that amassed impressive tackle numbers.
- Lacks average lateral quickness, change of direction and foot speed. He will have a difficult time becoming a consistent performer due to the lack of natural athleticism.
- Pad level is inconsistent during backpedal, so he will need technique refinement to enhance short-area burst, but even a technical increase won't produce a dramatic increase in natural quickness.
- Footwork will need to be cleaned up, especially for a man scheme; he wastes too many steps in and out of breaks and pivots.
- Sometimes loses track of the receiver and focuses on the eyes of the quarterback, allowing the receiver to settle in behind his zone. There's a balance that has to be met with better anticipation, which he does not have right now.
- Not a lockdown defender in any scheme or position; probably not an instant impact as a rookie.
- He doesn't have much experience on special teams, so he will need to buy in to becoming a contributor there.
- Burn percentage of 33 percent for the entire 2013 season while in coverage, which is below average for a quality NFL defensive back prospect.
NFL Comparison: Chris Harris, CB, Denver Broncos
- Earned first-team All-Big 12 honors as a first-year starter in 2011.
- Ranked as the ninth-best player in Missouri as a high school recruit.
- Will graduate with a degree in business management.
- Served as a referee for little league basketball games in his spare time.
Gaines was able to experience playing against top-level competition every week in the SEC, and he played well in his senior season. His best scheme fit will be in a zone-base defense, preferably Cover 2, where he can focus on redirecting the receiver and using his ball skills to make plays. A master of none, Gaines will need to play special teams to get on the field, but he’s good enough to stick around the NFL as a depth player.
Draft Projection: Fourth Round