From now until the 2023 NFL Draft takes place, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10-picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling Kansas EDGE Lonnie Phelps.
#47 Lonnie Phelps, EDGE, Kansas (rJR) – 6023, 244LBS
Senior Bowl / NFL Combine
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Lonnie Phelps||6’2 244lbs||9 1/4||32 3/8||N/A|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Has a solid burst off the snap
— Brings violent, if erratic, hands
— Has a respectable arsenal of pass-rush moves, though his effectiveness varies greatly
— Closes on ball carriers quickly and is a fairly sure tackler
— Sees most of his success as a pass rusher by winning inside with speed
— Lacks ideal length and size for the position, frame is rather stout for an edge rusher
— Lacks strength to control run blocks and efficiently shed toward the ball carrier
— Hands are often out of position, making it easy for linemen to get hands on his frame
— Lacks the hip flexibility and agility to bend under offensive tackles
— Far too often is run out behind the passer
— Just one sack in his final seven games at Kansas, nearly half his sack production in 2022 came in Week 1 against an FCS program
— Birthday: August 24, 2000 (22 years old)
— Transferred from Miami (OH) to Kansas for 2022 season
— All-Big 12 second team in 2022
— Seven sacks in 2022, three of which came in Week 1 against Tennessee Tech
— 2022 Stats: 57 tackles, 11.5 for loss and seven sacks with one forced fumble and a pass deflection
— Career Stats: 114 tackles, 29.5 for loss and 23 sacks with three forced fumbles and a pass deflection
Lonnie Phelps is best described as a bulldog of a player. He fights hard and is highly aggressive. While he tested well at the NFL Combine, there are some fairly severe limitations on tape that will keep him as a Day 3 selection. However, there’s a lot to work with.
For starters, Phelps has a solid burst off the snap, allowing him to get depth on his pass rushes and come at the opposition with violent hands.
On this play against TCU, you get a taste of that burst and his violent hands as he clubs away from the left tackle, getting himself free to the quarterback quickly. Unfortunately, he also displays hip tightness as he labors to turn the corner to pursue the passer, giving the quarterback enough time to make a big play with his talented receiver.
That burst off the line is one of his biggest strengths. He can get himself in trouble with his erratic hand placement and give his frame to the tackle, but when he’s right he can be fairly dangerous. Here against TCU once again, Phelps explodes off the line and splits a double team with pure speed to power before wrapping up the quarterback in the backfield.
Another example of his hand usage against Duke, and this time he gets home for the sack. When Phelps is able to connect on his punch, he can transition with swipes, clubs and pulls to get free. Here he utilizes the club again and shows off his straight-line pursuit to the quarterback as well.
Bending around the outside is often a real struggle for Phelps. He’s often carried deep into the backfield as he tries to turn the corner. Still, he’s got enough moves in his arsenal to make do and create pressure. His go-to is finding ways to win inside with speed, including a spin move he shows off here against Kansas State. While he doesn’t get home, he creates enough pressure to move the quarterback off his spot a bit, even if the pass is delivered cleanly for a first-down gain.
As I’ve alluded to, Phelps’s hand placement can be erratic, often getting too high on the blocker. It’s most prevalent in the run game, where he often struggles the most. Far too often, he gets manhandled by tight ends as he does here against Kansas State, getting driven back several yards and failing to disengage.
It’s hard to even get a gauge of his edge or gap discipline because this is so often the case. If the blocker gets into Phelps’s frame, he’s toast. This makes him a total liability in short-yardage situations, as he gets bowled over in this goal-to-go run from TCU, again courtesy of a tight end.
It becomes clear pretty quickly in his tape that Phelps is a speed guy through and through with a violent tendency but is limited by his frame and strength (which is puzzling for a guy that put up 31 reps on the bench press, but I digress). That said, his straight-line pursuit whether in the run game or hunting the quarterback is a quality that will help him as he cuts his teeth on special teams. Check him out here against Duke. He sheds a poor blocking attempt from the tight end, locates the ball and bolts with a good angle to track him down.
Lonnie Phelps met with the Steelers in Indianapolis. While he’s far from being a potential third edge rusher, his value as a late Day 3 selection to work special teams is easy to recognize.
While his struggles against the run are alarming, the grit he plays with on a consistent basis is to be commended. He needs to learn better hand placement and develop enough bend in order to capitalize on his strengths as a pass rusher — you can’t just go inside on every rep in the NFL, you’ll get smothered.
Still, Phelps is a prospect worth keeping an eye on as he has the personality and makeup to develop into a useful tool on special teams as he learns to be a situational pass rusher at the next level.
Projection: Mid-Day 3
Depot Draft Grade: 6.6 – 5th Round (Special Teamer)
Games Watched: TCU ‘22, Duke ‘22, Kansas State ‘22