Better Missouri Prospect: E.J. Gaines Vs. Michael Sam
By Matt LaPan
In one of the most shocking scenarios of the season, Missouri sits at No. 5 in the first BCS standings. The Tigers have stared down some of the best the SEC has to offer and come away victorious. Their up-tempo offense and physical defense has led the way for the Tigers so far, and on the defense there are two stars that the nation is being introduced to: defensive back E.J. Gaines and defensive lineman Michael Sam.
Both Gaines and Sam bolster the defense as seniors, but which one is the better NFL prospect?
Case for Gaines:
Gaines is quickly becoming one of the better cornerbacks in the defense-heavy SEC. He is extremely physical at the line of scrimmage but does not overextend. Although Gaines is listed at just 5-foot-10 (which might be giving him some extra height), he plays much more like a defensive back with a larger frame. He has a good jam at the line and great hip movement, which allows him to stay with receivers on both inside and outside routes. Gaines also has very good athleticism and leaping ability, both of which help him to defend much larger receivers.
Gaines also has displayed great ball skills throughout his career. Gaines averages around nine pass defenses a season, but he has more than 10 in each of the past two seasons. Gaines has also shown this year that he can take the ball away. Coming into his senior campaign, Gaines only had three career interceptions. He has already matched that total this season, recording three in the first six games.
Gaines was injured recently, which is something to keep a close eye on moving forward.
Case for Sam:
Sam is turning heads by leading the SEC in sacks with nine through his first seven games -- nearly matching his previous career total of 9.5 sacks, showing that Sam might have finally figured out his pass-rush ability. He is physical at the line with great hand strike. He also has shown an improving set of pass rush moves this season and has a relentless motor.
Sam is used as part of a defensive end rotation at Missouri, which makes his sack totals all the more impressive. If Sam stays on track and ends up leading the nation in sacks (he is currently tied with Clemson's Vic Beasley) he could be shooting up the draft boards of teams in need of a pass rusher.
The one question with Sam is how he translates to the NFL. Is he too small (6-2, 255) to stay at defensive end? Can he add weight or should he be moved to 3-4 rush linebacker?
The better prospect is:
Michael Sam. Although both players have made a big case to NFL scouts, Sam is moving himself further up the boards with each sack. His physical play and motor should impress teams, even if he is a bit undersized.