We haven't quite made it to the free agency period yet, so defensive tackle remains a major need for the Detroit Lions. Many draft experts have mocked a DT to the Lions, and more than half of the time it's either Florida State's Eddie Goldman or Texas' Malcom Brown. CBS Sports' Pat Kirwan recently mocked a new name to the Lions at No. 23 overall. With both Goldman and Brown off the board, Kirwan decided to slot Oklahoma DT Jordan Phillips to Detroit. This would be an intriguing match due to Phillips' mammoth frame (6-foot-6, 334 pounds) and the fact that he played exclusively as a nose tackle in OU's 3-4 scheme.
Phillips is currently the 23rd-ranked draft prospect on CBS Sports and the fourth-ranked DT. Despite dealing with a significant back injury and playing just 28 career games at Oklahoma, Phillips decided to declare for the NFL Draft as a redshirt sophomore.
First things first, to say that Jordan Phillips is a mammoth DT would be an understatement. His massive frame allows him to plug gaps and make a huge impact versus the run. He consistently commands double teams and frees up one-on-one matchups for his teammates.
Here is an example of Phillips stuffing the ball carrier for a loss on a zone sweep. He completely terrorized Tennessee's offensive line all game long. The Lions had a historically great run defense last year, and Phillips may be the best run-defending DT in this class.
Phillips is an immovable object versus the run. On this play, he engages with the center and gets double-teamed by the left guard. He anchors himself well and doesn't allow himself to lose his position. He is then able to shed the center and catches the ball carrier with one arm for a minimal gain. Not the flashiest play, but impressive nonetheless. These are the types of plays that you will see from Phillips that may go unnoticed to the casual football fan.
It's not often that you'll see a 334-pound DT categorized as "quick," but Phillips is very deceptive with his quickness. You'll see it often in his tape versus Tennessee. He would explode off the snap and shed his assignment in a matter of seconds. The talent is there, but the question will be whether he can make these plays on a consistent basis.
How on earth is this possible? Phillips doesn't affect this play at all, but the fact that he's even able to hit the QB on a three-step drop out of a shotgun formation is absolutely astonishing. After watching this play for the 673rd time, I finally noticed he even gives the right guard a stiff arm just for fun.
In the play above, Phillips lines up over center and swims past him with ease off the snap. The right guard quickly realizes that his teammate is beat, and though he isn't able to clean up the mess, he does just enough to steer Phillips away from the QB. Phillips is unable to bring the QB down, but does a nice job of shedding a couple of blockers and forcing the QB to leave the pocket early.
We've seen Phillips' ability to beat interior linemen with his quickness, but he also shows glimpses of his impressive strength.
What happens when you decide not to double-team Phillips? How about getting driven back 7 yards and left lying on your back? That's just poor recognition and lazy blocking from both the left and right guard.
Two quarters later and it's virtually the same exact situation. The only way for Texas Tech's center to try and stop Phillips on his own is to grab a hold of his jersey and pray that he doesn't get called for a penalty.
Phillips is a very talented DT, but there are some legitimate concerns surrounding him. The biggest would be his health. He sat out most of the 2013 season after undergoing back surgery to correct multiple issues. There are some that believe there is still a major issue there, and medical examinations will be key for his draft stock. If he's able to prove that he's healthy, then there is no doubt in my mind that he's a first-round talent.
Another concern I have is his consistency. If you compare his game film against Tennessee to his TCU film, you may be convinced that you're watching two completely different players. Phillips struggled to get any pressure against TCU and was often shut down by their center in one-on-one situations.
I'd also like to see Phillips put better use to his size advantage. In 28 career games, he managed to tip just two passes at the line of scrimmage.
How He Fits
If Phillips is able to prove that he's healthy and not dealing with chronic back pain, then I believe he'd be a solid option in the first round for the Lions. His frame suggests that he's better suited as a nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme, but he has the explosiveness to thrive in a 4-3 scheme as well. Regardless of what the Lions decide to do in free agency, Phillips would keep their dominant run defense intact and provide some splash plays as a pass rusher with his deceptive quickness.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave any suggestions of prospects you would like to be profiled in the comments below.