One of the best parts of the draft process is that it presents an opportunity for players who did the “dirty work” for their teams to distinguish themselves.
There are players who need that opportunity, even on good teams at major programs. In this case, it is Harrison Phillips, a defensive tackle from Stanford. Phillips made his living on the Cardinal’s defensive line occupying blockers and setting the stage for his teammates to make plays. It’s a vital job, but hardly a glamorous one, and he didn’t get much recognition by the media at large.
Phillips did get enough recoginition to garner an invitation to the 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl, which he attended as a part of his lead up to the 2018 NFL Draft. And he made the most of the opportunity, grabbing the spotlight in practice and generating a buzz with the scouts in attendance.
The New York Giants might be in need of depth on the interior of their defensive line, and Phillips’ talent, versatility, and experience in a 3-man front could appeal to them.
- Very strong. Easily controls linemen in the run game and can collapse pockets in the passing game.
- Shows good arm extension. Can “bench press” blockers when he gets under their pads.
- Very high motor. Never seems to give up on the play.
- Flashes some pass rushing upside.
- Fairly long arms.
- Needs to work on his quickness off the snap. Could be a timing or a general quickness issue.
- Swim move as a pass rusher is generally ineffective.
- Balance is occasionally an issue.
- Seemed to wear down at the end of games. Stamina or conditioning might be questions.
What they’re saying
Analysis: Phillips was one of the stars on the North’s defensive line and really stood out the first two days of practice. He beat opponents in a variety of ways and did so in one-on-ones as well as full scrimmage. He’s quick, plays with leverage and uses his hands very well. Phillips was a lot more athletic than I projected, and he’s locked himself up as an early second-round pick.”
Phillips is a player who probably needs to be talked about more. He isn’t a flashy play-maker, but he is able to disrupt behind the line of scrimmage and is a terror in the run game. He plays with power and leverage, easily standing up blockers and collapsing lanes and pockets
His game is built on his pure power and motor, and Phillips is often too much for a single lineman and only just barely controlled by a double team. Phillips relies on that same power as a pass rusher, with a bull rush and long-arm as his go-to moves. He will go to a swim move as his counter move, but it isn’t nearly as effective and he might be better served by developing a rip move to capitalize on his use of leverage.
Phillips seemed to wear down in the fourth quarters of the games I watched, and that might be a conditioning issue. If he lands in a situation where he doesn’t routinely play nose tackle, he would be able to shed some weight and that might help matters.
He has a body type to play all along the defensive line despite often playing nose tackle for Stanford. With the Giants likely moving to more of a 3-4 base front, Phillips would be able to play the 5-technique defensive end or 3-technique defensive tackle in nickel situations. He will likely slip to the second day of the draft, but could be a gem in the mold of former San Francisco 49er Justin Smith for the team that takes him.
Also, and this seems like a small thing, but in watching tape for Cole Madison, I saw one play that ended with Phillips getting a hard shot on Washington State QB Luke Falk and knocking him to the ground. After the play, rather than a teammate helping Falk up, it was Phillips. Football is a brutal sport that easily fosters bad blood, it was refreshing to see that kind of respect and sportsmanship among opponents.