As the calendar turns to April and the 2021 NFL Draft draws closer, we’re in the thick of Pro Day season. This year, those pro days have taken on more importance than ever—with no scouting combine or in-person visits due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, pro days are the final opportunity for NFL teams to view and work out draft prospects.
This past Monday, the University of Miami conducted their pro day in front of NFL scouts and coaches. And given how edge-rusher Jaelan Phillips showed out, the odds of the 6’5″, 260-pounder being a first round pick on April 29 have only gone up.
As NFL.com pointed out, Phillips put on quite the show in Coral Gables. “Phillips drew a big reaction from the crowd at the Hurricanes’ pro day with a 40 of 4.56 seconds, ” Sara Walsh said. “That’s a tremendous time for a player who weighed in at 260 pounds. He also showed his explosiveness with a 36″ vertical jump and broad jump of 10’5″.”
Of course, it’s not exactly a state secret that Phillips is an impressively athletic young prospect. Elevated to the role of No. 1 pass-rusher for the Hurricanes after Gregory Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season, Phillips responded by piling up 45 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks and an interception. In doing so, Joe Marino of the Draft Network wrote that Phillips demonstrated that he’s a talented and versatile edge-rusher more than capable of making a major impact in the NFL.
“Phillips is a scheme-versatile prospect that I can see having success as a 4-3 defensive end or standing up as a 3-4 outside linebacker,” Marino said. “Miami gave him plenty of chances to operate with his hand in the dirt and from a two-point stance. Phillips has playmaking ability as a pass rusher and run defender, enabling him to make an impact on every down.”
Eric Robinson of the Falcoholic agrees that where potential is concerned, Phillips has as much upside as any edge-rusher in the Class of 2021.
“The natural athleticism on display solidifies why Phillips was the top rated recruit back in 2017,” Robinson wrote. “He is armed with a unique blend of qualities such as length, quickness, power and an excellent NFL frame. Phillips displays excellent lateral agility and with his quick burst, is able to attack opposing lineman at the snap with proper bend around the edge thanks to his flexibility. If need be, Phillips can dip his inside shoulder underneath the hands of the blocker and maintain proper leverage.”
Former NFL executive and current NFL analyst Louis Riddick went so far as to say that Phillips has the highest ceiling of any edge-rusher in this year’s draft—with one major caveat.
“Best edge rusher in this draft easily as far as pass rush package,” Riddick tweeted. “Testing numbers today confirm he is an athletic freak show. Medical/durability is the question.”
That question looming over Phillips is a whopper.
A five-star recruit at UCLA back in 2017, Phillips dealt with multiple concussions while with the Bruins. After suffering a severe wrist injury that required multiple surgeries in a scooter accident in 2018, Phillips actually walked away from football altogether before eventually deciding to transfer to Miami and continue his career. Between that injury history and Phillips’ professed desire for a music career after football, some draftniks have questioned his long-term prospects.