Jaelan Phillips 2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Jaelan Phillips has rocketed up draft boards over the last year. With natural size and length, the highly touted high school recruit has started to see his name mocked in the first round of many mock drafts. We check out Phillips' 2021 NFL Draft scouting report today and assess whether the hype is justified.
Jaelan Phillips NFL Draft Profile
Jaelan Phillips, Edge - Miami
Height - 6’5’’
Weight - 266
Class - Redshirt Junior
Hometown - Redlands, California
Jaelan Phillips’ story is one of a true comeback. Having been recruited heavily out of high school as a multi-sport athlete he opted for UCLA having at one point been the number 1 rated recruit in the entire country. He was consensus Top 5 among ESPN, Scout.com and Rivals.com and was invited to play in the prestigious U.S Army All-American Bowl. It cannot be understated how highly rated he was.
As a freshman for UCLA he saw action in seven games, starting four and showing immediate promise with 16 solo tackles of which seven were for a loss and recorded 3.5 sacks before an ankle injury prematurely ended his season.
In the winter of the following year, he was hit by a car whilst on a moped and fractured his wrist requiring intricate surgery to repair. When he finally regained fitness for the 2018 season it was again cut short due to an ankle injury on the other leg and three separate concussions, the last of which prompted him to retire from football. He ventured into the music industry in 2019 and dropped to 220lbs before getting the opportunity to enrol at Miami University.
In 2020 he showed the form the Bruins thought they were getting, gaining weight back to 260+ and leading the team in 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Finishing with five in his last three games he was selected to All American conference semi-final and final teams by the Associated Press and along with consecutive ACC Defensive Player of the week awards was a Bednarik semi-finalist. He decided to forgo his Senior season and enter the 2021 NFL draft the upcoming draft.
Phillips is physically imposing at the line of scrimmage, he carries his weight evenly on his body with a well-proportioned frame, even as a freshman for UCLA he stood out from other players at the line of scrimmage.
Shows good body control on impact from run blockers, he stays engaged and doesn’t move backwards often shedding blocks very effectively. Plays with good length and reach, his use of arm extension, hand placement and all of his 6’5 length is utilised to disengage from blockers in the run game pushing off with his hands and keeping his hands active in pass rush sets.
The impressive pop in his hands also shows up regularly on first contact, when rushing inside on a guard he simply has too much reach combined with his power for interior lineman to deal with him, you can almost feel sorry for them at times.
Has enough top end speed to pursue QBs on a boot action and down the backside of plays, looks fluid on the move.
Is a strong forceful tackler, his long arms are used as a wrap up tackler, could play a little lower on contacts but his own physical prowess means he’s so rarely shrugged off by ball carriers.
Has shown comfort in lining up either side of the line with equal effect but primarily holds down the strong side of the formation and will rush and attack from a 2-point stance but predominantly hand down lined up outside of the tackle. He is very rarely asked to drop in coverage as part of Miami’s even front although he did a little at both UCLA & Miami in short buzz/flat zones to reasonable effect.
For a big man his change of direction and athletic movement stand out, he’s fluid transitioning to top speed effortlessly with no stutter steps on his release. He shows surprising agility at the top of his rush, and whilst he won’t “wow” you with his bend he’s certainly very capable of beating a tackle outside, he’s shown on multiple occasions the skill to turn from a tight angle.
Has always shown good football IQ on all the games watched on play diagnosis and keeping his eyes on the QB in the backfield and being vigilant of potential ball carriers in read/option plays.
Phillips powers through contact, no more evident than the 2020 Louisville game where he was constantly in the backfield affecting pass and run play. They ended up giving the tackle TE help to chip him.
Shows a variety of accomplished pass rush moves favouring strong arm and bull rush, has a violent club hand and shows good athleticism on his spin move. There’s also the makings of a euro step which still requires polish but shows the advanced technique already.
Phillips gets upright far too quickly, he must look to play with lower pads to improve his suddenness and explosion out of his rushing stance, this will help him carry his momentum.
He also attacks chest too often inviting contact, playing more half man when attacking the edge and far outside shoulder of the opposing tackle should naturally keep his body clean from contact. Playing “high” occasionally causes him issues on pulling guards as they’re able to drive through him winning the leverage on impact and knocking him off balance.
Simply relies on his own strength and power too often it’s like he’s too used to beating up on the little kid! Despite being technically proficient and having multiple ways to win, the variety is not on show often enough. The pass rush plan setting up his opponent to win with the first move or counter needs refinement, will too often try the same thing over and over with no change up despite a lack of success.
Whilst we are not privy to medical evaluations and records with Phillips you have to mention them as a huge caveat to his draft stock and the reason why we only have one season of production. All we can do is evaluate the talent, but teams will need full evals on him.
The body of work is limited due to one full truncated season, but the pure talent is there to see. Phillips may be the most naturally talented edge player in the entire draft. The frame, length and size are everything you could hope for from a day one selection at the position.
Whilst the burst and first step aren’t elite it’s plenty good enough to allow him to impose his will on opposition tackles. The strong side of the line suits him well due to his play affecting ability in the run game and it’s so rare to see him overpowered at this level.
He can play immediately and contribute, I’d expect good production if he goes to a team who has an established pass rusher already, freeing him up for one-on-one matchups along the line.
Am really hoping the medicals are not an issue for a stellar talent in the draft process and the next level.
Jaelan Phillips NFL Draft Projection
1st round, picks 17-32
See where Phillips is ranked amongst the rest of the defensive edge prospect: Our full edge rankings here.
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Miami Vs NC State - https://youtu.be/dN2q2PsVFno
Miami Vs Louisville - https://youtu.be/feMY7rv0bLE
Miami Vs Clemson - https://youtu.be/1L1A0zegZT0
Miami Vs Virginia Tech - https://youtu.be/5FiAc7qY3P4
UCLA VS Oklahoma - https://youtu.be/XLp4t1IigME
UCLA Vs Memphis - https://youtu.be/Y28jymS7D10