— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) April 11, 2014
We did a breakdown of Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines, and we were wrong.
He's a better player than we initially anticipated.
Gaines has all the makings of a cornerback who is on the verge of becoming a legit stud in the NFL, but the edges he needs to sand down would likely take a bit of time. Perhaps he's not the kind of player who will be able to contribute immediately, but in the long-run, if he stays on the same path he's on, he's going to be a very good NFL player. The multiple meetings he has set up is an indication of that.
Production is key. For a cornerback, the lack of production from a receiver is key. Writes BTSC's Steel34D in his evaluation of Gaines:
"In the three full games I watched Gaines was targeted 14 times. He broke up four passes, intercepted a fifth and allowed only four catches."
Four catches allowed in 14 throws. He made a positive play on the ball more often than he allowed it to be caught. No one else with a draft future can boast those kinds of stats. He's probably not a Year 1 player, though, given the fact he's going to need some serious strength training but that's the most coachable area of any prospect.
Watching a player like this, it's really difficult not seeing a team spend a second round pick on him, particularly one that can afford to stash him away for a bit. He has a very advanced mental game, and with some time in the weight room and 1-on-1 against a tackling dummy, he could end up being an outstanding cornerback.
It leads me to think, despite the depth of top-tier cornerbacks likely to be available at 15, the Steelers don't necessarily need to take one there any more than they need to take a wide receiver there. Plenty of evidence suggests both positions will yield a good player at 46 - maybe even one on a close level to one they'd take at 15.
The real hope here is a quarterback some team really wants is available at 15 and wants to trade up. The Steelers would benefit greatly by drafting three times between 20-60.