NFL Mock Draft 2021: Jaelan Phillips would add to Cardinals’ scary defensive front

“The Arizona Cardinals are on the clock…”

If you haven’t seen it yet, SB Nation invited their team sites to go through an NFL writers’ mock draft, with a writer from each site making a selection for their team. Currently, these are the pick selections before 16 (and yes, the Panthers’ crossed-out Mac Jones pick was done before the Darnold trade was official).

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars/Big Cat Country: QB Trevor Lawrence
  2. New York Jets/Gang Green Nation: QB Zach Wilson
  3. San Francisco 49ers/Niners Nation: QB Justin Fields
  4. Atlanta Falcons/The Falcoholic: QB Trey Lance
  5. Cincinnati Bengals/Cincy Jungle: WR Ja’Marr Chase
  6. Miami Dolphins/The Phinsider: TE Kyle Pitts
  7. Detroit Lions/Pride of Detroit: OT Penei Sewell
  8. Carolina Panthers/Cat Scratch Reader: QB Mac Jones OT Rashawn Slater
  9. Denver Broncos/Mile High Report: LB Micah Parsons (Sorry Giants)
  10. Dallas Cowboys/Blogging the Boys: CB Patrick Surtain
  11. New York Giants/Big Blue View: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
  12. Philadelphia Eagles/Bleeding Green Nation: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
  13. Los Angeles Chargers/Bolts from the Blue: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
  14. Minnesota Vikings/Daily Norseman: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
  15. New England Patriots/Pats Pulpit: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

So, without further ado …

Pick No. 16. Arizona Cardinals/Revenge of the Birds: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE – Miami

The way the board has fallen, Arizona normally would be looking at a cornerback, an offensive lineman or even a wide receiver who could fall to this spot. However, in an EDGE class that’s filled without a standout bonafide top-10 pick on the board, Jaelan Phillips stands above the other EDGE players in this class and also fills a need in the short and long-term to give Arizona one scary defense.

Phillips has all of the hands to shed and explode in the run game (watch a few clips of him … guys struggle to get their hands on him) but it’s his bend off the edge that is where he shows first-round pass rush ability:

Phillips’ ability to shed blocks in the run game and utilize his hands and leverage in his ability to rush from both the edge and the inside is reminiscent of a smaller version of J.J. Watt, who joined the Cardinals in the offseason, and pairing Phillips as a rotational pass rusher alongside Watt, Chandler Jones and Markus Golden might give Arizona a deadly enough rush that it helps offset some of the lack of talent at cornerback.

With neither of the top two corners available and injury concerns for both Caleb Farley and Greg Newsome (Farley opted out last season and couldn’t participate in his pro day as he was recovering from a second surgical procedure to relieve back pain, and Newsome suffered a groin injury in the Big Ten Championship game after a shortened season due to COVID) it makes it an easy decision to add to a strength of the team.

In addition, Chandler Jones is 30, had only one sack in the five games he played in 2020 prior to tearing his bicep, and he’s in the last year of his deal in Arizona. While many might point to Phillips’ concussion issues at UCLA as a risky endeavor, his medicals are the only reason that he’s likely fallen this far to Arizona. He was “retired” by the program, but still had the fire within to play football and proved that he was indeed worthy of being the top recruit he was out of high school.

A more in-depth video breakdown of Phillips can be found below:

In summary:

As long as he can stay on the field, developing under two of the best to ever do it in the past decade helps keep Arizona with young impact players at all three levels of their defense.

And as they say—you can never have too many pass rushers.

Best prospects remaining:

  • Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
  • Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
  • Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
  • Baron Browning, LB, Ohio State
  • Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia

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