UCLA hasn’t had a receiver go in the fourth round or higher of the NFL Draft since 2014. Furthermore, they haven’t had a receiver go higher than the fourth round since 2001. As Kyle Philips’ scouting report details, he is more than worthy of breaking those draft streaks.
Kyle Philips NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: UCLA
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height: 5’11”
- Weight: 189 pounds
- Wingspan: 72″
- Arm: 29 5/8″
- Hand: 8 5/8″
Kyle Philips Scouting Report
Slot receivers have always been important, but with the rise of the passing game and 3+ receiver sets, they are at an all-time high. But why is the slot so important? Really, it comes down to three basic reasons: free release/two-way go, competition faced, and proximity to the quarterback.
Players in the alignment face far lower rates of press coverage, and even when they do, they have more avenues to success. There is no sideline restricting their release or route, creating an automatic advantage against man coverage. Furthermore, defenses typically place their top corners on the outside, though this is dwindling as the slot corner position has received similar attention as their offensive counterparts over the years. Lastly, slot receivers are simply closer to the QB and provide more separation per route than outside WRs.
Why am I rambling about the importance of the slot position? Well, Philips is the prototypical slot receiver. He owns the nuanced route-running ability to take advantage of man coverage, the short-area burst to eat up separation, and the open-field shiftiness to create yards after the catch. We will delve deeper into his scouting report, but Philips can thrive as a slot receiver in today’s NFL. Thus, he should hear his name called between Rounds 2-4 during the NFL Draft.
Where Philips wins
Philips said he builds his game around Keenan Allen, Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, and Cole Beasley. And boy, does it show. Philips attacks angles viciously to get corners to bite. He employs head fakes, hip pointing, and doesn’t allow DBs to “slip the hip” by moving upfield before catching the pass. When he faces man coverage, he gets his CB to flip his hips one way and immediately targets their backside.
Against off coverage, Philips held defenders with eye candy, perfectly timing his route with the QB to catch the easy completion. He understands leverage and possesses the spatial awareness to flow to open zones. At the line of scrimmage, he utilizes his lightning-quick feet with deadly effect. Philips hardly faced press in college, but when he did — and at Shrine Bowl 1-on-1s — he beat DBs with rapid pace they couldn’t match.
That same foot quickness comes into play at the top of routes and during breaks to transition his momentum with ease. Even if a defender anticipates the break, Philips will beat him to the ball. He showcased his explosiveness at the NFL Combine with a 33.5-inch vertical and a 10’4″ broad jump — the same as Chris Olave and better than Garrett Wilson (10’3″). On route breaks, Philips drops his arms by his side, forcing his hips to sink, leading to clean, quick cuts.
Moreover, Philips can vary his speed at a moment’s notice. His ability to accelerate and decelerate is impressive. His long speed could be limiting, as we will get into, but Philips’ short-area suddenness is top-notch. Due to his fluid hips, feet movement, and acceleration, the UCLA WR is a YAC threat. He forced multiple missed tackles each season and was difficult to bring down the open field.
Versatility and mentality
One thing you will never see Philips do is take a play off. It doesn’t matter if he is the first read or the widest player on the opposite side of a run play, he gave his all. Furthermore, as a run blocker, Philips puts his body on the line. He has a basic understanding of leverage and positioning, allowing him to stave off bigger DBs and linebackers. He also owns the “clutch gene,” routinely picking up third downs and coming down with tough receptions in the red zone.
Philips does most of his damage underneath and in the intermediate middle of the field. Truthfully, there isn’t a route he can’t run. On deeper routes, his ball tracking and body control shine, as he can time his jumps and contort his body to secure the ball.
Lastly, Philips is a stellar punt returner. He averaged 19.0 yards across 26 attempts, recording 2 touchdowns. Whatever a team asks him to do, he will do it to the best of his ability. Need him to line up in the backfield and take a pitch? Easy. How about motion to a fullback/tight end position and be the lead blocker? Done. Philips’ toughness is unquestionable, and it’s easy to see on tape.
Areas for improvement
While I have gushed over Philips, he isn’t a perfect prospect. He is a slot-only receiver, lining up there on over 90% of his snaps for the Bruins. That has value, but it is less valuable than a true outside receiver.
Philips likely won’t be much of a deep threat in the NFL. He topped out at 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. He could improve upon that number at his pro day, as he reportedly ran a 4.49 in high school. So, he should be able to run a faster time as a more refined athlete. Nevertheless, his film doesn’t show a downfield threat with sought-after big-play ability.
Furthermore, Philips is prone to occasional focus drops and body-catching. His frame and arm length naturally lend to a smaller catch radius and minimal contested-catch ability.
Philips occasionally crosses his arms in his stance. This takes a split second to uncross before carrying momentum forward at the line. He can also overstep on routes, taking more than needed to get from point A to B.
Philips can lean his front knee and upper torso more, loading up his hips to fire out. He is a bit too upright in his stance, sometimes forcing a gather step before taking off. Lastly, he pivots his front foot toward the inside, requiring a step to readjust it. His speedy feet make up for all these minute details for now, but every movement counts in the pros.
Philips’ Player Profile
Philips’ football career really began to take form as a sophomore at San Marcos High School in southern California. He caught 54 passes for 757 yards and 7 touchdowns, returning kicks as well. It was linear growth from there. In 2016, he recorded 65 catches, 909 yards, and 11 scores. Philips saved his best for last, finishing his senior campaign with 59 receptions for a whopping 1,318 yards (22.3 ypr) and 10 TDs. He even added 26 tackles and 2 INTs on defense for good measure.
That was enough to earn four-star ratings from ESPN and 247Sports in the 2018 recruiting class. Philips received 15 total offers, including Oregon, Michigan, and Boston College. Regardless, staying close to home and family while attending UCLA proved the deciding factor.
“Being close to home was another thing that was hard to pass up,” Philips said after committing to the Bruins. “I get to stay in California with amazing weather. I get to stay close to my family, which is very important to me. And my parents and grandparents get to watch me play. All those things were too much to pass on.”
Philips’ career at UCLA
After redshirting his first year on campus, Philips set UCLA’s freshman record with 60 catches in 2019. In fact, he led the team in targets and reception from 2019 till 2021. He left UCLA with 163 receptions (fourth in program history), 1,821 yards (17th), and 17 touchdowns (eighth).
After being a Pac-12 honorable mention at receiver in 2020, Philips exploded in 2021. He corraled 59 passes for 739 yards and 10 TDs. The UCLA WR also took 9 punts for 208 yards and a score. As a result, he earned first-team Pac-12 honors as a receiver and second-team recognition as a returner.
Philips’ next step was domination at the Shrine Bowl. He was regularly recognized as a winner at practice and caught the eye of analysts (and presumably scouts). He didn’t participate in the all-star game and was reportedly the first-choice backup receiver for the Reese’s Senior Bowl. However, after not playing in the Shrine Bowl, Philips opted not to take up a spot at the Senior Bowl.
What they’re saying about Philips
“The want-to is what separates Kyle from anybody else. I think that’s what makes Kyle such a great receiver — he will do everything. He can block, he can run routes, he can catch, he’s a great special teams player for us, he’s a great all-around football player.” — UCLA head coach Chip Kelly
“If you’re looking for a [Cooper] Kupp-like player in the 2022 NFL Draft, UCLA’s Kyle Philips is the answer.” — Shrine Bowl director of football operations/player personnel Eric Galko
Philips’ NFL Draft ascension
The player comps to Hunter Renfrow are easy to make. They both possess swift feet and overall route-running prowess. Plus, their physical measurements are eerily similar:
- Renfrow (2019 Combine): 5’10 1/4″, 184 pounds, 29 1/8″ arms
- Philips (2022 Combine): 5’11”, 189 pounds, 29 5/8″ arms
Philips’ frame and route running are reminiscent of Renfrow, but his run blocking, physicality, and intangibles are similar to Cooper Kupp. Both players are high-end NFL talents, so I’m not saying Philips will be either of them from Day 1. But the talent is there to last in the league for multiple years, and he is one of the safest high-floor options in the class.
All that said, I believe Philips is a Day 2/early Day 3 pick and can start from the slot sooner rather than later. The position has received more recognition recently, and Renfrow and Kupp have shown how valuable the ceiling can be. Additionally, Philips’ special-teams value and versatility will endear him to coaches on various franchises.
Patriots could pull the trigger on the UCLA WR
One team to keep an eye on is the New England Patriots. Not only do they have vast experience with similar WRs (Wes Welker, Julian Edelman), but Philips had a meeting with head coach Bill Belichick at the Shrine Bowl. Yet, that wasn’t the first time they met.
“One time I was at the facilities, it was like midterm time, and I went to the bathroom, and Coach Belichick and Coach Kelly were walking by. And Coach Kelly introduced me, and I got to talk to him a little bit,” Phillips recalled during his Shrine Bowl media availability. “I was just so surprised it’s midterms, and I was focused on my papers and wasn’t expecting to see him.”
New England owns the 85th pick in the third round and 123rd in the fourth. If Philips is on the board, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots pulled the trigger to give second-year QB Mac Jones a reliable weapon.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Kyle Philips
Positives: Quick, sure-handed receiver with the ability to make important plays. Outstanding route runner who fires off the line of scrimmage and quickly gets in and out of breaks to separate from defenders. Tracks the pass in the air, nicely times receptions, and adjusts to errant throws.
Possesses outstanding eye/hand coordination as well as focus, snatches the ball out of the air, and displays a sense of timing on receptions. Knows where he is on the field, follows the quarterback across the field, and works to make himself an available target. Gives effort blocking downfield.
Negatives: Lacks a burst, plays to one speed, and isn’t a vertical wideout. Struggles in battles and does not win out for the contested throw.
Analysis: Philips was a productive receiver for UCLA the past three seasons. He separates from defenders through routes and finds ways to come free despite average size and speed. He’ll be a terrific slot or third receiver at the next level and comes with return potential.
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