Even though offensive line prospects playing outside the Football Bowl Subdivision are often raw in their overall technique, NFL teams will take a chance on their size and/or athleticism in the later rounds of the draft. It doesn’t take long to see the 6-foot-7, 320-pound Gaines is a perfect candidate to receive this sort of evaluation.
In spite of his obvious physical attributes, it took Gaines some time to become a starter because of the team’s talent at the position. He redshirted his first year on campus, and then only played three games as a freshman and eight contests in 2010 as a reserve. But in his first year as a starter in 2011, Ohio Valley Conference coaches voted him second-team all-conference for his efforts. Gaines was a Phil Steele second-team preseason All-American heading into 2012.
Possesses the tall, athletic build NFL teams like at the left tackle spot, can get out of a two-point stance in a hurry. But he’s no finesse player, as he can land a strong initial punch and is willing sustain blocks around the pocket, finish run blocks through the whistle, and shove opponents standing around as the play goes downfield. FCS defensive ends aren’t going to beat him very often once he gets his powerful hands on their jerseys; if they put up a fight, he uses his great length, flexibility, wide stance and good lateral movement to mirror. Uses his foot quickness for positional run blocking, connecting on reach blocks, as well as getting downfield to shield linebackers.
Still growing into his frame and maturing as a player. Quick defenders will cause him to overextend, and he’ll need to keep his feet active because his length won’t necessarily be enough to stop them. Play with a high pad level at times and gives up ground in pass protection, and also needs to prove he has the bend to get out of a three-point stance low and hard in the run game.
This tall, athletic left tackle dominates many of the players he faces at the FCS level with his pure size and athleticism. Gaines also shows a bit of a nasty streak at times. While he is a project, a team will likely give him a shot late in the draft based on his upside.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.