The St. Louis Rams entered the draft desperately in need of reinforcements in the secondary, and the sixth-round selection (No. 188 overall) of cornerback E.J. Gaines helps to fill that need.
The Rams ignored the first-round defensive backs, but St. Louis has acquired a surplus of secondary help ever since.
In the second round, the Rams selected Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner with the No. 41 overall pick. In the fourth round, the Rams made a somewhat questionable move by selecting Utah State safety Maurice Alexander, who was expected to be a late-round selection at best.
The selection of Gaines, however, is anything but questionable. On the contrary, the Mizzou standout and hometown favorite is a more-than-welcomed addition.
The Rams frequently target Mizzou players as undrafted free agents. Wide receiver Danario Alexander and center Tim Barnes are two recent examples, and both players paid off. However, the Rams are not known to use draft picks on former Missouri players.
According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Gaines is just the second player from Mizzou to be drafted from the Rams since the franchise's relocation to St. Louis.
Gaines is only 2nd Mizzou player drafted since Rams moved to St. Louis in '95. The first? OG Tony Palmer, 7th round, w/a comp pick in 2006.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) May 10, 2014
St. Louis fans are perfectly familiar with Gaines' skills from his Saturday performances in Columbia, Missouri, and those fans are anxious to see Gaines brings those traits to the Rams.
Here's what Gaines has to offer:
A Versatile Weapon
At 5'10" and 190 pounds, Gaines has pretty typical size for an NFL cornerback. He's not a huge corner, but he's a physical player and loves to tackle.
Gaines finished with 75 total tackles last season and is never afraid to take on an open-field tackle. He plays bigger than his size would indicate.
Gaines is not strictly a thumper, either. He's terrific in coverage—he had 34 deflected passes throughout his collegiate career—and can make plays. He ended his career with eight interceptions.
Gaines is solid in almost every department, making him perfect for depth. He can jump in at cornerback, slot corner, or nickel. It's possible he'll even contribute at safety in small doses.
However, while Gaines can do a bit of everything, there's not a single dominant aspect to his game. That's why he slipped into Day 3.
With some top-notch coaching, Gaines can develop into a strong starter. For now, he'll contribute on special teams and provide depth.
A Big-Game Performer
One of the more impressive aspects to Gaines' game is his ability to show up in big games.
When Texas A&M's Mike Evans—maybe the most dominant receiver in college football last season—came to Columbia in 2013, he learned just how reliable Gaines is as a player.
Evans' performance was nothing short of embarrassing. Evans finished with just four catches for eight yards and no touchdowns. Gaines completely shut him down, and Missouri won the game.
In fact, according to Nick Wagoner of ESPN, Gaines is a bit surprised that the game did not do more to boost his stock.
Gaines said most scouts brought up his performance vs. Evans. Said it's "a little crazy" to him that he went in 6th and Evans went in 1st.— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) May 10, 2014
It's not like that was Gaines' only big game, either. Gaines showed up big in the SEC Championship Game against Auburn as well.
In that championship game, Gaines returned a fumble recovery 11 yards for a touchdown, giving his team the momentum.
Playmaking is not a skill that can be taught, and Gaines is a player who undoubtedly possesses that trait.
For a sixth-round pick, it doesn't get much better than Gaines.
Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams' game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer profile or by following him on Twitter.
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