Each day leading up to the 2018 NFL draft, I’ll break down one of my top 50 prospects. In some cases, we had to make tough omissions because of injuries, poor pre-draft workouts or incomplete information. For more complete scouting reports on all the prospects, check out the Pro Football Weekly 2018 Draft Guide, which is available for order now.
38. Stanford DT Harrison Phillips
6-foot-3, 307 pounds
Key stats: Became one of only five Stanford players (and the only defensive lineman) since the year 2000 to be credited with more than 100 tackles in a season. Phillips also had a streak of 11 straight games in 2017 with at least one tackle for loss.
The skinny: Raised in Omaha, Phillips was a two-sport standout in high school — wresting and football. Despite being a three-time state champion, four-time national champion in wrestling, he committed to Stanford for football. Played as a true freshman in 2014 and broke into the rotation late in the season, making nine tackles and two sacks in six games. Won the starting nose tackle job in 2015 but suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the opener at Northwestern, taking a medical redshirt season.
In 2016, Phillips returned to the starting lineup for 12 games (46 tackles (19 solo), 9.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks), finishing the season on a high note with nine tackles (2.5 for losses) in a win over Mitch Trubisky and North Carolina. In his final season, Phillips led the Cardinal in tackles (103, including 17 for losses, plus 7.5 sacks) and was named Associated Press third-team All-America and first-team all-Pac-12.
Phillips declared early for the 2018 NFL draft, having completed his degree (double major sociology and science, technology and society) in December. He was a standout at the Senior Bowl and put up the highest bench-press total at any position in 2018 and tied the best mark of any player the past five years in the event.
Upside: Strong as an ox — put up 42 reps on the bench press with nearly 34-inch arms. Great length and extension. Motor runs hot for four quarters. Played whopping 795 snaps last season, for an average of 56.8 per game. NFL-ready, stamina-wise. Has a frame that can hold up to rigors of playing in the trenches, despite dipping below 300 pounds at times during his career.
Strong, aggressive run defender. Absurdly high tackle total reflective of good instincts, ability to find the ball, shed and slip blocks, technique and brute strength. Flattens down the line to make plays from behind. Rarely gives up after initial move neutralized. Saw a lot of double-teams in Stanford’s odd fronts and was effective at least earning draws most of the time. Wrestling background has ingrained excellent hand-fighting ability and leverage. Watch Phillips (No. 66) stay slow, shed the block of USC freshman guard Andrew Voorhees, keep his balance, change direction and make the tackle on Ronald Jones for a no-gain:
Against the pass, Phillips flashes a good bull rush and decent club-rip and club-swim maneuvers. Earns more pressures than sacks but will get to the quarterback on effort.
Downside: Size is adequate but hardly ideal for the interior. Where do you play him — nose tackle? 3-technique? 5-technique? Might not have a perfect gap fit. Might not be ideal third-down interior rusher. Lacks great hip mobility and lateral quickness has been questioned (despite excellent 3-cone drill time at combine). Doesn’t get his hands up often enough to disrupt passing lanes and knock down passes. Get off can improve — sometimes he’s the last guy off the ball. Could play with more burst.
Pad level not always ideal. High-cut and occasionally will rise too far, giving lower-built guards a bigger target zone to block. Needs to work on his balance and use his legs better — on the ground too much. Watch as Phillips gets too high and is bottled up inside on the pass rush as Notre Dame center Sam Mustipher walls him off and collapses him on a play that would go for an Irish touchdown:
Best-suited destination: Phillips technically should find some kind of role in just about any type of system, but he might have a little more value in those favoring two-gap assignments where he can play either on the nose or as a 5-technique. Teams that could be interested in his services include the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings and Washington.
Quotable: “I’m not worried about fit. Odd front, even, whatever — it’s not like it used to be. Teams don’t sit in base. They’re in nickel, over, under [fronts], and you just have to find a spot for him. You probably don’t want him as your 3-tech in an under front, but smart [defensive coaches] will find a spot for him. He’s a good rotational guy.” — AFC national scout
Player comp: Derek Wolfe
Expected draft range: Late first to mid-second round
50. Oregon RB Royce Freeman
49. South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert
48. LSU DE-LB Arden Key
47. Ohio State C Billy Price
46. Alabama S Ronnie Harrison
45. Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph
44. Texas A&M S Armani Watts
43. South Carolina TE Hayden Hurst
42. UCF CB Mike Hughes
41. USC RB Ronald Jones II
40. Maryland WR D.J. Moore
39. UTEP OG Will Hernandez