In one of the infinite ways to keep the mock draft machine rolling, NFL.com’s Adam Rank recently released his “what teams should do” first round projection. He explains it as, “per usual, this exercise explores what every team SHOULD do in Round 1. That’s right. I don’t sit here and try to predict what is going to happen in the draft.”
For the Pittsburgh Steelers at #24, he says the team should draft Miami (FL) EDGE rusher Jaelan Phillips. In defending the take, he writes:
“All right, I know you already have T.J. Watt, so taking an edge rusher doesn’t exactly scream “team need” right here in the first round. But if this were me, I’d look at the value you’re getting here. And then go address the offensive line later in the draft.”
Phillips picked up some major draft buzz with a strong Pro Day workout earlier this week. At 6’5, 266 pounds, he ran a 4.56 with a 36 inch vertical, 10’5″ broad, and 7.01 three cone. Daniel Jeremiah compared him to Josh Sweat.
Here’s my Phillips comp 👇🏻 pic.twitter.com/mhvr60rY5w
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 29, 2021
Phillips had a tough start to his college career, suffering multiple concussions at UCLA that forced him to medically retire. He transferred to Miami and put up impressive numbers this past season, notching 15.5 TFL and eight sacks. But that one-year of production and red flag of an injury history could give teams pause, especially one like the Steelers.
In terms of need, there’s no arguing Pittsburgh needs to draft a pass rusher. Whether they need to do so early is debatable. Alex Highsmith is slated to start opposite of TJ Watt. Rank’s argument is Phillips’ talent and upside is to great it’s worth taking the chance on. If he were to hit, the Steelers would have a strong trio of pass rushers on the edge.
Still, it’s unlikely Phillips becomes the Steelers’ pick. And in a weak EDGE class, he may not even wind up available at #24.