By now, most Minnesota Vikings loyalists have resigned to the fate that the organization will select either an EDGE rusher or offensive lineman with the 14th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
And that’s if general manager Rick Spielman even stays in that spot at all. There is a very palpable chance that the Vikings boss man trades back in efforts to re-acquire a 2nd-Round pick. That round is his money round – players like Dalvin Cook, Eric Kendricks, Brian O’Neill, and Kyle Rudolph have been scooped by Spielman in the second turn of the draft order.
Yet, the team needs a more ferocious EDGE rusher to pair with the returning Danielle Hunter. Even more pressing the offensive line is also a mess – at least for the moment.
NFL.com has an idea in its latest mock draft. Daniel Jeremiah sends Jaelan Phillps, an EDGE rusher from the University of Miami (FL), to the Vikings at #14.
This is notable because it is not Kwity Paye or Phillips’ teammate, Gregory Rousseau – the two men most frequently mocked to the Vikings when defensive ends are on the menu.
Jeremiah says of Phillips to Minnesota:
“Phillips is the most talented edge rusher in the draft. If not for some durability concerns, he would go higher than this pick.”
This would instantly kickstart a Week 1 defensive line of:
(LDE) Danielle Hunter, (NT) Michael Pierce, (3DT) Dalvin Tomlinson, (RDE) Jaelan Phillips
That is cause for mammoth excitement.
The Draft Network’s thoughts on Phillips, per Joe Marino:
“A consensus 5-star recruit, Miami EDGE Jaelan Phillips played his first two seasons at UCLA before transferring to Miami where everything came together in 2020. Phillips was flashy at UCLA but played a modest amount of snaps across 11 games in two seasons. Ankle, wrist, and concussion issues limited his time on the field for UCLA before his move to Miami. Phillips’ performance in 2020 was exactly what the Bruins thought they were getting in the former prized recruit. A balanced defender, Phillips is a playmaker against the run and pass, where his exciting blend of size, length, power, technique, and athleticism make him a challenge for offenses to neutralize. Phillips is a versatile player that has experience playing with his hand in the dirt on the edge, rushing from interior alignments, and playing in space in a standup role—which makes him a fit for all teams in the NFL. The areas of concern for Phillips entering the NFL are playing with better pad level, developing consistency with his hand technique, and becoming more consistent reducing his surface area while establishing a half-man relationship with his opponents as a pass rusher. Phillips has all the makings of an impact defender at the next level, although a large sample size of high-level production in college would have been preferred.”
Indeed, there are some durability concerns – ones that prevent a Top 10 stock for the 21-year-old. Much like any prospect, there are risks. Injuries are that for Phillips.
Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network also has a scouting report:
“Explosive edge rusher who took his game to the next level and is coming off a sensational season. Breaks down well, plays with outstanding pad level, and gets leverage on opponents. Fluid moving in every direction and displays a tremendous first step off the snap. Flows well laterally and gets down the line of scrimmage to make plays in space. Fundamentally sound, displays solid technique with his hands, and covers a good amount of area on the field. Easily changes direction, bends off the edge, and shows great speed up the field. Agile, nicely redirects and plays tough, instinctive football. Does more than just rush up the field and get after the passer and gives effort defending the run. Chases downfield to make plays if necessary.”
So, write these down – all names popularly sent to the Vikings via credible mock drafts:
Kwity Paye, Aljah-Vera Tucker, Rashawn Slater, Christian Darrisaw, Gregory Rousseau, Micah Parsons.
And now Jaelan Phillips.