The Super Bowl has ended, and with it, the 2017 NFL season officially comes to a close. We’ve been celebrating #DraftSzn here at The Falcoholic for a few weeks now, but knowing that it’s all officially over is still a little sobering. Congrats to the Eagles on their first Super Bowl, but mostly: thanks for beating the Patriots!
Anyway, we’ve got more scouting reports heading your way this week—starting with Stanford DT Harrison Phillips. Phillips has had ridiculous production for a DT over his past two seasons, including 7.0 sacks in 2016 and 7.5 sacks in 2017. He’s been a stalwart and consistent contributor for the Cardinal, but can he translate that level of production to the NFL?
To get a closer look at Phillips’ game, I watched him against San Diego State, Notre Dame, and TCU (Alamo Bowl). Let’s dive right in to what I learned.
Scouting Report: DT Harrison Phillips, Stanford
Phillips’ production immediate stands out—he piled up 95 total tackles to go along with 17 TFL and 7.5 sacks in 2017. Those are crazy high numbers for a DT. He achieved most of those numbers through sheer effort: Phillips doesn’t quit on plays and will continue fighting until the whistle. He’s a plus tackler with strong hands, and rarely lets players escape his grasp. Phillips shows good awareness in the run game, taking good angles to the ball and staying in his gap.
He’s also showcased some versatility, playing at both 1T and 3T for Stanford during his career. He also has experience executing both 3-4 and 4-3 concepts, as well as an understanding of using stunts and twists. Phillips has a strong inside swim move that he uses to create quick penetration after the snap, and it was quite effective when he was left one-on-one with an offensive lineman.
Phillips’ biggest concern is his athletic ability. From the tape, he seems exceptionally limited in this regard. His short-area quickness and burst off the line are passable, but he’s a labored runner and simply can’t make any plays in space. Phillips’ ceiling as an NFL pass rusher is fairly low as a result, which also limits his draft stock.
He also struggled to make plays against double teams, often getting completely washed out of plays. At his current size (6’4, 295) he’s probably limited to a 3T role at the NFL level. Outside of his inside swim move, Phillips’ hand usage is very unrefined and needs further development. He also has a tendency to play too high and can get pushed backwards by stronger/bigger offensive linemen.
Phillips is one of the more polarizing prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft’s DT class. It all comes down to how highly you value his production and his high-effort style of play. Those traits are valuable, but they don’t make an elite prospect on their own. Phillips’ lack of high-end athletic ability makes him a limited player in the NFL, and I’m not sure that I see him as anything more than an average NFL starter.
There is room for improvement with Phillips: his hand technique is still pretty raw, and he could certainly become an above-average run defender by more consistently playing with better leverage. But his size and frame likely limit him to a role as 3T in the NFL—and if he isn’t a plus pass rusher, that means he’s a base package player only. There is certainly room for a player like Phillips on an NFL roster as a base package 3T with potential for growth, but those types of players don’t demand high draft selections.
Atlanta could certainly benefit from adding a player like Phillips in the Day 2 range, as he’s ready to start right away on base packages and would provide valuable depth to the defensive line. I just don’t understand the first round hype that Phillips has been getting, as he’s clearly a prospect with fairly limited upside—particularly as a pass rusher.
Grade: 3 (third round)
What are your thoughts on Harrison Phillips? Do you think the first round buzz is too high, or just right? Could you see the Falcons adding him at some point during the draft?