2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Jaelan Phillipsby Alex Barbour March 23, 2021 1 comment
From retiring to getting first-round buzz, the roller-coaster career of Jaelan Philips is far from boring. His career seemed to be over (not just at UCLA but from football in general) after not playing in 2019. Phillips made a miraculous return to play at the University of Miami. In short, he did not disappoint. Gregory Rousseau opted out, so the combination of newly acquired Quincy Roche and Phillips filled the void. The University of Miami certainly did not complain about the amazing talent that had been stolen from around the country. Concussions have been the downfall of Phillips’s career, but how is his talent? Let’s find out.
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Name: Jaelan Philips
Position: Edge Rusher
Class: Redshirt Junior
Weight: 266 lbs
Run Defense (6.75/10)
Phillips starts on a high note here. He truly knows how to keep blockers at range and look around them without getting too invested in block shedding. This will translate very well to the next level. Zone run schemes will certainly be featured in the NFL, and this trait is highly coveted. Phillips can also block shed quite easily, but he is not an extremely dominant threat. His pursuit angles also need to be mentioned as an asset as well. Two aspects of Phillips’s run defense drop his score: one, he has a very hard time reading RPOs and options (this will be discussed later); two, Phillips seems to give up when taking on pulling blockers (he lowers his shoulder instead of trying to engage with and shed the block).
Pass Rush (8.75/10)
Wow, few have the pass-rushing ability that Phillips has on day one. First off, he has an incredible tool kit full of moves. These moves include both inside and outside and both with power and with finesse. The former Hurricane has an incredible edge bend that very few have even years into the NFL. That is special for a prospect that took a full year off (not to mention then playing during COVID). Some of Phillips’s moves are lethal, especially his inside swim move that seems to generate consistent instant pressure. His only flaw is that on a few plays he stands relatively tall and lacks the leverage to push the pocket. This is easily coachable, given his flashes elsewhere. Other teams recognize this because Phillips gets double-teamed almost every snap in some games (yes, those games include his teammate Roche playing on the other side, too). In short, few have this level of talent. Phillips will be a force on Sundays.
Phillips uses his length pretty well. When combined with his edge bend, there is little that offensive linemen can do to stop his rush. Linemen are not completely out-lengthed, but they usually are outmatched by Phillips’s ability to use length so well. Add another solid trait to the tool kit. Note: This scale uses 5.0 as average and 9.0 as elite (10.0 as supreme).
Overall, Phillips has quite solid technique. His footwork is solid, and he has a range of pass-rushing moves. Only a few are effective (one being lethal), so there is room to improve. As stated before, the former Hurricane has amazing edge bend as well. His movement from a two-point stance could be refined slightly, but that is pure nitpicking. In short, Phillips has a lot of solid qualities, but he can easily tweak a couple of things to raise this score.
Finally, a mediocre category. Phillips is not a scrub when it comes to tackling, but he does have a critical flaw: he is a tall tackler. Proper form technique teaches defenders to have their body low and wrap up the arms around the waist with the helmet on the football. Phillips wraps around the shoulder area and stands upright too many times. This will lead to numerous broken tackles at the next level. In his three years starting, he had 12 missed tackles. Overall, there is hope with coaching, but this may be a slight ding to Phillips’s draft grade.
This one hurts. There were too many times where Phillips could not read the backfield properly. His slow, if not poor, reads of RPOs and option runs cost his team enormously on several occasions. This happened a disturbingly high amount of times. On the other hand, Phillips seemed to feel inside zone very well: he even jumped from his edge spot into the middle to stuff the “A gap.” Hopefully, Phillips does not do this too prematurely in the NFL, as it will lead to a touchdown if bounced outside.
Phillips is a solid athlete. He has a pretty solid first step, his movement is pretty fluid, and he has above par strength. The former Hurricane did fall over very few times on tape, but it is noteworthy in terms of his balance. Phillips was seen tracking down Trevor Lawrence from behind on a scramble, so he also has enough speed to be effective against semi-mobile quarterbacks.
Power or skill at the Point of Attack (7.75/10)
Phillips plays much stronger than he looks. He can push the pocket like none other at his size. Unlike many defenders who are hit or miss, Phillips rarely ever gets stuffed by a lineman. He is always making an impact. The 29 pressures in 2020 may not be eye-popping, but the tape says that those numbers are miles away from the impact that he has on every play. Phillips also can slightly throw blockers when he has them at range with a push-pull move (eerily, yet slightly) reminiscent of Khalil Mack). Again, Phillips garners double teams for a reason: one man is not enough to handle him.
Positional Versatility (6.5/10)
Phillips can play at any edge rusher spot regardless of the scheme. He is not large enough to play on the interior, but he can be used in blitz sub-packages up the middle. Phillips was seen using both the two and three-point stances well. The former Hurricane did not seem to be a liability in coverage, but he rarely ever had to cover. Do not start to think about Phillips as a coverage player; however, he just might be able to play zone for a play or two if need be.
Competitive Toughness (4.0/5)
Phillips fights quite hard each play. He does sometimes look like he could put more juice into some snaps, but that is only because there are plays where he tracks down a play from the other side of the field. His motor is not a concern, do not worry.
Here is the biggest downfall for Phillips. He was told by UCLA medical staff (UCLA is one of, if not the best, medical schools in the country, if not the world) that he needed to retire due to his concussion issues. Those concussions never leave. Concussion issues being present before an NFL career project extremely poorly in terms of longevity. “The best ability is availability.”
Talk about a roller coaster. In short, the talent is more than there, but the concussions are scary. The talent flashes shown consistently throughout the tape demonstrate a player that is worth a top-10 selection if a team needs an edge rusher. That is not an exaggeration. He truly is an amazing prospect. Phillips will have a great career in the NFL for however long it lasts, let’s make that clear. His problem lies at the end of that sentence: “however long it lasts.” Concussions are no joke: they do not go away, and they cannot be fixed with surgery or any other methods. The best medical staff made him retire, yet Phillips’s love for football brought him back. Let’s hope that the concussion issue subsides and that the world gets to indulge in the amazing prospect that Phillips truly is. Overall, he is a top-12 talent, but he rests as a second-round grade when factoring in the concussions. The best ability is availability.
Final Grade (64/100): Second Round
Player Comp: Melvin Ingram
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