Once the number one recruit in the nation, he retired from football in 2018 following a string of injuries. Now, Miami edge Jaelan Phillips is one of the most explosive pass rushers in the 2021 NFL Draft class. Can the talent outweigh the concern and lead to a first-round selection in April?
Jaelan Phillips’ NFL Draft Profile
- Position: EDGE
- School: Miami
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’5″
- Weight: 266 pounds
If Miami edge Jaelan Phillips could have had his way, he’d be entering the 2021 NFL Draft as a wide receiver. Like the majority of children growing up playing football, this Californian kid wanted to play offense, catching passes and scoring touchdowns. However, at Redlands East Valley High School, his head coach convinced him otherwise.
It was a decision that paid dividends for both coach and player. A dominant defensive end, Phillips logged 76 tackles and 10.5 sacks as a junior. Meanwhile, he showcased his versatility and ball skills in snagging two interceptions. It was just the beginning.
As a senior, Phillips racked up an extraordinary 142 tackles and an incredible 21 sacks. His performances earned him an All-America Bowl invite and a spot on the 2016 All-USA First Team by USA Today.
Phillips became the hottest property in high school football. He was rated as a five-star recruit by 247 Sports. Phillips ranked as the number one weakside defensive end, number one player in California, and the nation’s best high school player. Naturally, he was a sought-after commodity, receiving over 20 college offers.
However, he narrowed it down to just two, UCLA and Stanford. With a history of family connections to UCLA and its proximity to home, Phillips committed to the Bruins over their Pac-12 rivals.
Jaelan Phillips’ college football career
From high school standout to highly-rated 2021 NFL Draft prospect, Miami edge Jaelan Phillips has endured a rollercoaster of a ride in between. He exploded out of the blocks as a college football freshman.
In his first career game with UCLA against Texas A&M, he was a disruptive presence. Phillips registered a sack, tackle for loss, and five tackles. Additionally, he showcased his ball skills to break up two passes.
Two games later against Memphis, he’d have his first multiple tackles for loss game. Unfortunately, that game would mark the beginning of a torrid time for the young pass rusher.
Early injuries derail a promising college football career
Against Memphis, he suffered a high ankle sprain. On his return to action a month later, Phillips injured the other ankle. He missed more game time after sustaining a concussion. What had started as an explosive freshman season ended with just six appearances, 7 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks.
Phillips entered 2018 determined to live up to his talent level. Once again, luck was not on his side. An out-of-season moped accident left him with a severely broken wrist. Although he would start the season, he would do so in extreme pain. Despite the severe pain, he would log a career-high (at the time) 9 tackles, including a sack against Cincinnati.
Three games later, Phillips’ season — and almost his career — was over. After sustaining another concussion against Colorado, the UCLA medical staff called time on his season. Likewise, Phillips called time on his career. Disappointed and disillusioned, he enrolled at Los Angeles Community College to study music and got a full-time job.
Jaelan Phillips goes from studying music to becoming a marvel in Miami and the 2021 NFL Draft
Something was missing, however. Craving the need to have football in his life again, Phillips entered the transfer portal, with the Miami Hurricanes becoming his eventual destination. Under NCAA regulations, he would have to sit for a year, but it was much needed regardless. Having dropped over 20 pounds, he was in no fit shape for football.
Almost like a freshman again, Phillips spent 2019 in the Miami weight room. He emerged in 2020 as a beast on the field. At 6’5″, 266 pounds, but still with the speed and athleticism of his high school days, he finally lived up to that promise on the field. As a result, the Miami edge finished the 2020 season second in the ACC for tackles for loss (15.5) and eighth for sacks (8).
After earning All-ACC Second Team and AP All-American Second Team honors, Miami edge Jaelan Phillips declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Analyzing Jaelan Phillips’ NFL Draft Profile
Miami edge Jaelan Phillips has all the tools to be the first pass rusher taken in the 2021 NFL Draft. Based on his 2020 Miami tape alone, he easily projects to be a dominant defensive force in the NFL. He could quite comfortably play as a traditional defensive end or an outside linebacker in a base 3-4 formation. In this respect, he transcends scheme, making him a valuable commodity in the NFL Draft.
At 6’5″, he has impressive size, but he combines that with tremendous length. Phillips has long arms, which he puts to good use wrapping up quarterbacks or ball carriers. He combines size with tremendous speed to create a pass rush problem off the edge.
Additionally, Phillips has good flexibility to bend around the edge. He doesn’t simply beat offensive tackles with speed and overshoot. He can combine that speed with bend to be a disruptive force in the backfield.
Phillips also exhibits excellent power. There are multiple examples on tape of him using that power combined with his arm length to force offensive tackles backward. He also uses that power to come inside and overwhelm guards on the way to the quarterback or running back.
This helps him to be a force as a pass rusher, but also in the run game. Phillips also uses his speed well in the run game, chasing down ball carriers with a hot motor. This was perfectly demonstrated against Clemson, where he used his speed rush to force Trevor Lawrence out of the pocket and chased him downfield to bring his run to a halt.
What are the potential concerns with Jaelan Phillips?
There is just one major concern for Miami edge Jaelan Phillips regarding his 2021 NFL Draft stock. His medical history will be a major red flag for NFL teams. The ankle injuries aren’t too concerning. However, concussions will be something that teams will want to evaluate closely.
From a playing perspective, there is just one minor concern. As a 6’5″ pass rusher, he can be guilty of playing with his pad level too high, which causes him to lose leverage. However, this is a minor concern for a player absolutely brimming with ways to win at the next level.
Jaelan Phillips’ best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
As I mentioned earlier, Miami edge Jaelan Phillips would be a scheme fit for any team looking for a pass-rush threat in the 2021 NFL Draft. He played predominantly on the left side for Miami, but that appears to be his only limitation. Several teams have a pass rush need to address. Those include the Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Jaelan Phillips enters the 2021 NFL Draft with fellow Miami edge rushers Gregory Rousseau and Quincy Roche. In his latest big board for Pro Football Network, Tony Pauline lists Jaelan Phillips as his fourth-ranked defensive end, 31st overall prospect with a first-to-second round grade.
If teams are happy with his medical evaluations, there is every chance that Jaelan Phillips can be a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Want more 2021 NFL Draft prospect news? Want to do your own mock draft?
Dive into PFN’s Free NFL Mock Draft Simulator and test your own drafting acumen. Continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter (@PFN365) to stay in the loop on all things college football and the NFL Draft landscape.