Kansas City, Mo. The Kansas City Chiefs have spent their first two draft picks on players who would have come in handy while they were going through a monumental meltdown in last year’s playoffs.
After selecting Auburn pass rusher Dee Ford in the first round, the Chiefs selected Rice defensive back Phillip Gaines with their lone pick Friday, bolstering a defense that was torched by Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck in a first-round playoff loss in January.
“It just kind of falls that way,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said.
Kansas City was in need of safety help after losing starter Kendrick Lewis in free agency. It is possible that Gaines could ultimately make the switch to that position.
“It doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care if I’m strictly on the punt team,” Gaines said.
The Chiefs did not have a second-round pick after sending it to San Francisco in the deal that netted them quarterback Alex Smith. That made it a long night for Dorsey and coach Andy Reid, who had to wait until the 87th overall pick before calling Gaines’ name.
“There is still a lot of upside to him,” Dorsey said. “The ringing endorsements from the scouts, our coaches and their coaching staff, I think you have to go in that direction.”
Like Ford, who dealt with knee and back problems at Auburn, Gaines will arrive in Kansas City with a history of injury trouble. He missed the end of the 2009 season with a broken wrist and the rest of the 2011 season when he broke his foot in an early season game against Southern Miss.
Gaines also had some off-the-field trouble. He landed on probation after an arrest in April 2011 for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, and was suspended for last season’s opener after a second failed marijuana test. That caused him to miss out on an opportunity to showcase his talent against Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and wide receiver Mike Evans.
“You know, it happened in the past. I’ve grown up. I’ve learned from it,” Gaines said. “I’ve moved on. Unfortunately, I was part of it. I dragged my family into it. I dragged my teammates into it. I’ve learned from it. I have the opportunity now. I have to justify the Chiefs.”
Gaines said teams asked him about the incidents and that he owned up to them.
“I’ll never shy away from it,” he said. “I’ll own up to it every day for the rest of my life. Sometimes you make mistakes. You man up to it and you move on. The Chiefs believe in me.”
Dorsey said he addresses marijuana situations on a case-by-case basis. The team drafted tight end Travis Kelce in the third round last year under similar circumstances.
“You sit down and analyze everybody’s growth through life and see how they mature,” Dorsey said. “You kind of look at them the last two years. I like to sit down and see them one-on-one.”
When he was on the field, Gaines proved to be a dynamic playmaker.
The first-team All-Conference USA pick allowed only 13 receptions while getting targeted 40 times his senior season. He defended 13 others, leading the team with four interceptions.
He finished his career by recovering a fumble to set up a touchdown in the Liberty Bowl.
“He’s very advanced. He’s very competitive. He’s very prideful,” Dorsey said.
“What I like about the kid, early on he was young, but he grew up. He made some mistakes and he grew up. He’s a two-time captain at that school. That says a lot. He earned the respect back from the coaching staff, his teammates. He grew up as a man.”