The journey that brings collegiate stars to the NFL is often an interesting one. No matter if you are one of the more sought after players within a recruiting cycle, or one that is simply trying to earn one scholarship offer to make it to the next level, that journey is one that can be convoluted.
For Jaelan Phillips, his story starts in Redlands, California as the #1 prospect in the 2017 freshman class, moves to a commitment to UCLA, and ultimately finishes with his status as a possible late first rounder after a very solid 2020 season at the University of Miami. His was an expedition that also included a retirement from football altogether due to injuries. Today, we will put his skill set on display and break down how the talented pass rusher can be a welcome addition to the Falcons in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Jaelan Phillips Scouting Report
Weight: 260 pounds
Career stats: 86 total tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, five pass deflections, one interception
The natural athleticism on display solidifies why Phillips was the top rated recruit back in 2017. He is armed with a unique blend of qualities such as length, quickness, power and an excellent NFL frame. Phillips displays excellent lateral agility and with his quick burst, is able to attack opposing lineman at the snap with proper bend around the edge thanks to his flexibility. If need be, Phillips can dip his inside shoulder underneath the hands of the blocker and maintain proper leverage.
Phillips shows good eye discipline in run defense when tasked to read draws, end arounds, and zone read handoffs. A combination of length and excellent strength allows Phillips to execute proper tackling, which will be music to the ears of Falcons fans. Phillips has enough experience during his brief collegiate career to play in a stand up role, hand in the dirt, and every now and then, rushing on the interior.
After missing all of 2019 due to transfer/injuries, Phillips was able to make second team All-ACC and second team AP All-American in his first season on the field for the Hurricanes. He was also tied for first in the conference in sacks and second in tackles for loss.
The biggest red flag on the table is his injury history. Prior to even taking the field for Miami, Phillips dealt with ankle and wrist issues along with a few concussions along the way. The concussions occurred during his time at UCLA and during an off-the-field accident and was the eventual reason why Phillips retired from the sport altogether. During that time away, Phillips dealt with depression also until he received a medical thumbs up to possibly continue his collegiate football career, making his a remarkable comeback story.
That led to his transfer to the University of Miami which led to him having one of the most talked about draft stocks in the entire class. To his injury history, though, we have to add the small sample size that we saw from Phillips during his college career. Phillips has 20 games at the collegiate level and while he largely looked impressive during that time span, it also left many wanting to see more from him consistently. He also must improve his pad level as a 6’5” rusher, but that is a correctable red flag with proper coaching.
Phillips was easily the most talented player on the Hurricanes defense this past season, and you saw plenty of glimpses of why Phillips was an elite five-star recruit in 2017. The lack of an NFL Combine took away an opportunity for Phillips to put his athleticism and versatility on display in front of NFL teams, but it shouldn’t greatly damage his stock.
Phillips may not be a household name for some, but his talent warrants a possible mid-to-late first round selection. If he happens to slip to the top of the second round, Phillips will be a legitimate steal. With his ability to be a superb pass rusher in the 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, Phillips can be a very important chess piece for the Falcons defense as they look to elevate themselves as a unit in 2021 and beyond. Phillips has future All-Pro written all over him.