The Chiefs added speed — big-time speed — to a secondary that sorely needs it in a division occupied by Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers.
Passing on its perceived biggest need, wide receiver, for a second straight day, the Chiefs stayed true to the draft board in snapping up Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines with the club’s only pick on the second day of the NFL Draft.
“As we were assessing the board, he was the highest-rated player on the draft board as it was built,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said. “He has all the physical dimensions we ask for in our corner — he’s long, he’s fast, he has long arms. He has (38 pass breakups) over his career, which is a school record. He plays and tracks the deep ball well. I’d say there’s still a lot of upside with him.”
Gaines, who clocked a 4.38-second 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine, probably isn’t a well-known commodity to the Chiefs’ fan base.
He played in relative obscurity in Conference USA, where he logged parts of five seasons after receiving a medical redshirt because of a foot injury that cost him all but four games in 2011.
Gaines, who also missed several games because of a broken wrist in 2009, didn’t have any interceptions until his senior season, but he picked off four passes last fall and also recorded 36 tackles, including six for a loss.
He racked up 64 tackles, including 51 solo tackles, as a sophomore in 2010 and finished second in the nation with 18 passes defended during the 2012 season.
Before the Chiefs called Friday, Gaines wasn’t sure where’d fall in the draft and said wasn’t worried about it either.
“Honestly, I really didn’t care if I was a free-agent guy as long as I got picked up and got an opportunity to play,” Gaines said. “ Going to Rice, going to a small school, I never really had any thought about going to the NFL. I just wanted to get that good degree and play football. Now, I’m here, so I’m just rolling with it.”
Gaines also comes with some baggage. He was arrested in April 2011 for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to one year of probation. He also failed two drug tests, including one on Jan. 1, 2013, which trigged a one-game suspension to start his senior year.
“It happened in the past,” Gaines said. “I’ve grown up. I learned from it and I moved on. Unfortunately, I was a part of it. I dragged my family into it. I dragged my teammates into it. But I’ve grown from it, so you live and you learn.”
Gaines said he was up front about his history of marijuana use with NFL teams.
“I just told (teams) the truth,” Gaines said. “I’ll never shy away from it, because I did it. It’s nothing to hide from. I did it. I’ll own up to it every day for the rest of my life. Sometimes, you make those mistakes, but you man up and you move on with it. The Chiefs have believed in me and understood that I did that, but they have nothing to worry about.”
Dorsey, who drafted Cincinnati tight end Travis Kelce despite a positive test for marijuana as a sophomore in college, shrugged off any concern about those off-field indiscretions.
“I think it’s a case-by-case basis,” Dorsey said. “I think you sit down and analyze everybody’s growth through life and see how they mature and how they are as young men. At the end of the day, as they go through life, you have to look at them the last two years and see how they project forward. I personally like to sit down with them and see them one-on-one just to make sure I’m comfortable with them as a person.”
Obviously, Dorsey felt comfortable and said he was swayed, in part, by the fact that Gaines was a two-time captain for the Owls.
“That says a lot, because he’s earned the respect back from the coaching staff and he’s earned the respect back from his teammates and he’s grown up as a man,” Dorsey said.
As a player, Dorsey didn’t rule out the possibility that Gaines could see time at safety, but said he would remain at cornerback ideally.
“As we all know, you can’t have enough good corners in this league,” Dorsey said. “He sure adds another quality depth for us at that position.”
Gaines hasn’t returned punts or kickoffs, but Dorsey didn’t rule out the possibility he could be looked at for that role with the Chiefs. He’ll definitely be a factor on special teams in some capacity.
“I could project him at gunner right away,” Dorsey said.
That would be just fine with Gaines.
“I don’t care if I’m strictly gunner on punt team, it doesn’t matter to me,” Gaines said. “Whatever they put me at, I’ll do it.”Cornerback Phillip Gaines
Round three (No. 87 overall)
Racked up four interceptions and nine passes defended as a senior. He also had 36 tackles, including four for a loss. Gaines finished second in the nation in 2012 with 18 passes defended and totaled 64 tackles (51 solo) in 2010.
It probably starts with Gaines’ April 2011 arrest for misdemeanor possession of less than two of marijuana. He also was suspended for the first game last season for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Gaines also missed all but four games in 2011 with a foot injury. He didn’t have any interceptions until his senior season, when he picked off four passes.
Gaines ran a blazing 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He was born in Concord, Mass., and majored in economics at Rice. He was a prep star at Judson High School in Converse, Texas, on the football field and on the track as a sprinter and 110-meter hurdler.
•Where he fits in: Gaines played on the left and right side as a cornerback for the Owls. He has the size NFL teams now covet in a cornerback and it certainly is a position of need for the Chiefs, who currently have five experienced corners on the roster — Brandon Flowers, Sean Smith, Ron Parker, Chris Owens and Marcus Cooper.