While studying one player prior to the draft, oftentimes you stumble across a player you like even better. That happened to me a year ago while watching Ohio State tight end Nick Vannett. In a game against Maryland, edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue jumped off the tape and instantly became one of my favorite day 2 prospects. The third-round pick went on to record 8 sacks and 4 forced fumbles for Jacksonville. Well, a similar thing happened a few days ago while watching Illinois.
My intention when I turned on the computer was to take a good long look at defensive end Dawuane Smoot, but by the end of the first quarter, my attention was instead focused on fellow end Carroll Phillips, one of his lesser-known teammates. What I saw from the likely day 3 pick was a player capable of being a very effective edge rusher in the National Football League.
The 242-pound Phillips will have to move to outside linebacker at the next level, but that shouldn’t be a major problem. He runs well (4.62 at the Combine), and even more importantly, he’s extremely flexible. That combination should eventually make him effective both coming off the edge and dropping into coverage. But it’s going to take time. The general manager who drafts Phillips shouldn’t expect instant gratification.
Like Kyler Fackrell, Green Bay’s third-round pick last year, Phillips needs to get stronger. He struggled against the run in the Big 10, so you can only imagine how he’ll fare as a rookie against experienced NFL tackles. Like Fackrell, he needs to increase his repertoire of moves as a pass rusher. Right now, he relies too much on his athleticism. And just to keep the Fackrell comparison going, he’ll also be a 25-year-old rookie.
Besides his potential as a pass rusher, another thing that could make Phillips very attractive to the Packers is his familiarity with new defensive quality coach Tim McGarigle. who was his position coach at Illinois last season. In the crapshoot that is the NFL draft, the more a team knows about a player, the better.
There’s no question general manager Ted Thompson will select an outside linebacker early in next week’s draft, but that shouldn’t preclude him from adding another player at the position later. With Julius Peppers and Datone Jones and their 1,350 combined snaps gone, there will be room for more than one new outside linebacker on the roster in 2017. And after accidentally watching him play, I think Phillips could be that guy.