First and foremost, Jordan Phillips is a big ole boy. This cat measured out at 6'5 and 329 pounds at the Combine. Oh, and his arms are damn near 35 inches long. Needless to say, Phillips at least looks the part of an NFL nose tackle. The fact that he did 28 bench press reps of 225 pounds also confirms what the film tells me: Phillips is not only big as hell, but damn strong too. Additionally, his 5.17-second 40 time is outstanding for a man his size. And listen, his Combine numbers were cool and everything, but Phillips was also pretty damn productive on the field in the games that I watched.
For the purposes of this breakdown I went over to Draft Breakdown to watch Phillips play against Tennessee, TCU, Texas Tech and Clemson. Those represented the third, fifth, 10th and 13th games of Oklahoma's season, respectively.
So why don't I love this guy more as an NFL prospect?
I can point to that TCU game for one thing. It just so happened that I watched the TCU game last. After watching Phillips dominate the centers from the other three teams, it was a little jarring to watch TCU's center get in his ass most of the game. Okay, maaaaayyyybe I'm overstating it a bit.
It's not like the center was pancaking Phillips through the whole game or anything. Phillips still flashed a couple of times, but that center battled Phillips to at least a draw on damn near every play. Even if you didn't watch the film, you could tell something was up because Phillips wasn't nearly as productive against TCU as he was in the other three games. That actually made me go back and rewatch the other games again -- it got me to wondering if Phillips only looked so dominant because he was put in an advantageous position by virtue of Oklahoma's defensive scheme.
Oklahoma lined up Phillips with a zero nose alignment on most plays, putting him head-up on the center in a 3-4 scheme. The Sooners also blitzed a lot, and even when they weren't blitzing, they still would have the B gaps covered most of the time. With him head-up on the center and the guards covered up, Phillips would have a relatively easy time dominating him up and making plays from tackle to tackle, if the opposing team had a weak center. That is because the center wouldn't be able to get much help from either guard, as they would have threats of their own in each B gap to worry about. It also allowed the Sooners to stunt Phillips left or right from time to time, which helped him to get penetration between a guard who initially had his eye on someone else to block and a center who came off the ball somewhat cautiously anticipating Phillips trying to jack them up. It was a genius move because I'm sure Oklahoma knew most centers couldn't handle Phillips one-on-one and most guards couldn't adjust quickly enough to stop his penetration when he stunted.
The thing I kept wondering before I watched that TCU game, however, was what would happen if Phillips ran up on a guy he couldn't just manhandle and rag doll.
I'm a Tennessee Vol For Life, and I will be the first to tell you right off the top that our offensive line sucked most of last year. So me seeing Phillips dominate our center and guards all game wasn't all that impressive to me. That's what I would expect a top defensive tackle to do. Had Phillips looked like that in every game I watched then I'd probably have a man crush on him by now, but seeing that TCU center put the clamps on him gave me second thoughts. After all, the TCU center didn't appear to be a world beater. He just came off the ball low, used his hands well and had quick feet.
Kiiiiiiiinda like most NFL centers.
Let me say this, I didn't watch the film to evaluate that center, so maybe he is a badass All-Conference/All-American type. No matter how he is regarded as a college football player, my thing is that if Phillips can't consistently beat that guy, why would I expect him to kick ass on a regular basis in the NFL?
I haven't done a complete 180 on Phillips just because of one game, but I do have more concerns about him. I think Phillips can be a viable nose tackle in the NFL as a two-down player, but I just don't see him as a guy you should expect much from above and beyond that. While it's true that there were times when Phillips was impressive as a power rusher, he still needs to work on staying lower so he can escape those moves cleaner. Even if he does, I just don't think he will ever give a team enough as a pass rusher to be in there on money downs.
Philosophically, I do not think there are ever many, if any, two-down nose tackles that are worthy of a first-round pick. It's a passing league, and I will always believe you can get decent run stoppers throughout the draft. There's no need to reach for a guy who can't also get after the passer.
The question with Phillips is how long do you wait to pull the trigger?
You can't coach 6'5, 330 pounds. As much as I may feel Jordan Phillips is a one-dimensional player, he plays that one dimension pretty damn well. He may not have made many plays outside of his little phone booth, but if the ball went in either A gap, Phillips was more than likely the person who ended up making the tackle. He also showed good footwork and technique with his hands in being able to get off blocks to make those plays. He was rarely blown off the ball. His motor ran hot and cold at times, but there were also plays where he shows up 20-30 yards down the field running after the ball. I don't think Phillips plays with enough knee bend at times, but the flip side is that he does do a decent job using his height to his advantage by getting his hands up in the opposing quarterback's passing lanes.
I'd say for what Phillips brings to the table physically and technique-wise, he is a solid second-rounder.
I can understand why teams and other evaluators may have Phillips rated much higher than that because of his rare combination of size and physical ability, but I just don't see a scenario where he becomes a good interior pass rusher. I imagine if there is a 3-4 team out there that believes it is a true nose tackle away from going to the Super Bowl, then maybe it could reach for Phillips. I just can't think of any teams that are in that position. If he does go in the first round, more power to him, but that won't change my projection.
Jordan Phillips will be a good, not great, nose tackle no matter what defensive scheme he gets drafted into and he will be on the sideline on most obvious passing downs.
It just comes down to how much value you put on that kind of thing.