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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: EDGE Jaelan Phillips

  • The Draft Network
  • December 21, 2020
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A consensus 5-star recruit, Miami EDGE Jaelan Phillips played his first two seasons at UCLA before transferring to Miami where everything came together in 2020. Phillips was flashy at UCLA but played a modest amount of snaps across 11 games in two seasons. Ankle, wrist, and concussion issues limited his time on the field for UCLA before his move to Miami. Phillips’ performance in 2020 was exactly what the Bruins thought they were getting in the former prized recruit. A balanced defender, Phillips is a playmaker against the run and pass, where his exciting blend of size, length, power, technique, and athleticism make him a challenge for offenses to neutralize. Phillips is a versatile player that has experience playing with his hand in the dirt on the edge, rushing from interior alignments, and playing in space in a standup role—which makes him a fit for all teams in the NFL. The areas of concern for Phillips entering the NFL are playing with better pad level, developing consistency with his hand technique, and becoming more consistent reducing his surface area while establishing a half-man relationship with his opponents as a pass rusher. Phillips has all the makings of an impact defender at the next level, although a large sample size of high-level production in college would have been preferred. 

Ideal Role: Starting 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB.

Scheme Fit: Phillips is scheme-versatile with equal appeal to even and odd front teams. 


Written by Joe Marino 

Games watched: Louisville (2020), Clemson (2020), NC State (2020), Virginia Tech (2020), Duke (2020) 

Best Game Studied: NC State (2020) 

Worst Game Studied: Louisville (2020) 

First-Step Explosiveness: Phillips is smooth releasing out of his stance, pairing a quick first step with the ability to gain depth to start his rush. He is experienced operating from both a three- and two-point stance, with neither revealing issues with false steps or tardy releases. The issue with his first step is a bad tendency of not keeping his pads low, robbing him of burst, and exposing his frame to blockers. 

Flexibility: Phillips has more flexibility in his hips and ankles than expected for an edge rusher with his body composition. He’s fully capable of cornering the outside edge track while turning a tight angle. There is some tightness in his upper body that limits his ability to reduce his surface area and he offers a fair amount of pads to blockers to get their hands on him.  

Hand Counters: Phillips has good variety when it comes to the pass rush moves he executes well, including a cross/swim, spin, one-arm stab, and dip/rip among others. With that said, timing and placement with his hands is still a work in progress and there are reps where his hands are late to activate. Phillips isn’t deficient in hand technique and combatting skills, he just has room for growth that will make him an even more effective player.  

Length: Philips has the ideal length for playing on the edge. With that said, he can develop his hand usage more effectively and his length will become a bigger asset for him. For now, his length mostly shows up as a tackler, where it allows him to finish outside of his frame and extend. He’s also deliberate about using his length to get his hands up and take away throwing windows from the quarterback. 

Hand Power: Phillips has good pop in his hands and when his punch is deployed with proper timing and placement, it will stun blockers and open up options for him to defeat the block. On long and late downs, the pop and suddenness in Phillips’ hands are impressive. 

Run Defending: Phillips is a very good run defender that does a great job of maintaining outside leverage and stringing out plays. He has the functional strength to set a firm edge and squeeze gaps. He’s outstanding from the backside to contain and then commit in pursuit. Overall, Phillips understands how to defend the run and his role in the defense. 

Effort: Phillips plays with terrific hustle and urgency on every snap. He’s aggressive in backside pursuit and will chase from distance. There are reps where he finds himself on the ground and he quickly battles to find his footing and get back into the play. There are no questions with his motor. 

Football IQ: Despite a limited amount of reps entering 2020, Phillips showed a strong understanding of diagnosing plays and his role on the defense. He played well throughout the 2020 season but really started to hit his stride during and after the Clemson game, four games into the year. His ability to acclimate and illustrate growth throughout the season speaks to his football intelligence. That said, penalties were a bit of an issue in 2020. 

Lateral Mobility: Phillips is loose and agile working laterally in backside pursuit or working toward the sideline. While it wasn’t a regular part of his role, Phillips did have a few zone coverage drops in each game that I watched where he looked comfortable moving in all directions and playing in space.  

Versatility: Phillips is a scheme-versatile prospect that I can see having success as a 4-3 defensive end or standing up as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Miami gave him plenty of chances to operate with his hand in the dirt and from a two-point stance. Phillips has playmaking ability as a pass rusher and run defender, enabling him to make an impact on every down. 

Prospect Comparison: Trey Hendrickson (2017 NFL Draft, New Orleans Saints)


TDN Consensus: 85.88 / 100

Kyle Crabbs: 87.50/100

Joe Marino: 86.00/100

Jordan Reid: 85.00/100

Drae Harris: 85.00/100

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