As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Arkansas S Rohan Gaines exploded with 75 tackles on the season landing him on the SEC All-Freshman team with peers like Texas A&M Johnny Manziel, Alabama WR Amari Cooper, the Florida DL duo of Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler, Jr., and Georgia RB Todd Gurley. All of those peers of Gaines' went in the first round of the NFL Draft except for Bullard, a third-round selection for the Chicago Bears in the 2016 NFL Draft. Gaines was an undrafted free agent after this year's draft who has landed with the Los Angeles Rams.
For one, Gaines' time in Fayetteville coincided with the rebuilding of the program after the departure of Bobby Petrino due to...well, that was a thing. Thing aside, Petrino is a pretty damn good football coach. His absence created a huge vacuum that took some time to fill, and let's be honest. Bret Bielema can fill a vacuum as well as anybody. So Gaines' college career coincided with a rough time overall for the program that helped contribute to a decline in his individual production.
The other major factor is more about the coaching change and not just instability for the program overall. Bielema came in and helped re-stock the defense as players like Brooks Ellis and Martrell Spaight cleaned up in front of Gaines. So the improvement overall, let alone among the players who more or less prevented Gaines from making more plays, negated much of his production in 2012.
So Gaines got lost in the shuffle a bit for a starting strong safety in his final two years. Can he regain that spark in his quest to make the Los Angeles Rams' 2016 roster?
The safety depth chart is one of the more interesting positions for the Rams' 2016 53-man roster.
A year ago, the Rams kept five on the initial 2015 53-man. Of those, I would count three as locks for this year's initial 53-man: T.J. McDonald, Mark Barron and Maurice Alexander. Cody Davis is going to be an interesting call among the special teams leaders though he did log the most ST snaps. Rodney McLeod is now a Philadelphia Eagle.
So you've got at least one spot and potentially two if Davis is on the block. The battle therein will be between Gaines, Christian Bryant, Jordan Lomax (roster preview), Brian Randolph and any potential linebacking position changes. Bryant might have a leg up with his special teams contributions in 2015 (12th-most special teams snaps of any Ram).
I like the forming roster fight between Gaines, Lomax and Randolph as 2016 UDFAs with legitimate college experience.
Always tough to tab UDFAs with expectations.
I guess I'm hedging here, but I'm interested to see who takes the lead between Gaines, Lomax and Randolph for Rams fans heading into camp.
Chances of Making Final Roster: 4/10
QBKlass had Lomax as a 4/10 so I'll take the easy route here. Brandon Bate has the Randolph preview comin up soon, so make sure to inundate him with peer pressure to stake out a different call here.