clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

FILM | Jaelan Phillips is a beast and my favorite prospect from the Dolphins 2021 draft class


If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

2021 NFL Draft Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The 2021 NFL draft is officially in the rearview mirror, and that means it is time to start grinding the tape on the Miami Dolphins’ latest rookie draft class. (Revisit is a better word)

Last week, I took a look at Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. I broke down some of his tape and explained why he might quickly become the most electrifying player we’ve seen. I won’t make any outrageous claims this time, but what I saw when watching Jaelan Phillips on tape was special, and he is, without question, my favorite draft pick from the Miami Dolphins 2021 draft class.

So sit back, relax and enjoy. Here is my film breakdown on Miami Dolphins' outside linebacker, Jaelan Phillips.

Jaelan Phillips, Outside Linebacker, Miami

Hometown | Redlands, CA

College | Miami

Age | 21

Height | 6-5

Weight | 266 lbs

2020 Stats | 45 tackles (21 solo), 15.5 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 3 pass breakups, and 1 interception.

It was clear heading into the 2021 NFL Draft what the Miami Dolphins' biggest needs were. Some saw the need for a premier pass-rusher and thought the team would address this need early on. But then the board fell in a way that Not even the most optimistic Dolphins fans would have believed possible. An important decision loomed-

Najee Harris?

Kwity Paye?

Azeez Ojulari?

Any offensive lineman?

A cornerback?

Chris Grier and Brian Flores had their pick of the litter. They stuck to their draft board and, in doing so, landed what some believe to be the top defensive player in this year’s draft class. A prospect that may have only been available because other teams were too scared to commit given his past medical history.

The Dolphins—with four top-50 draft picks—had the ammunition to take a chance on Jaelan Phillips. And I think the player Miami got will have fans excited for many years to come.

Let’s take a look at what Jaelan Phillips can do on the field and what some experts say.

What they are saying

During our 2021 NFL Draft prep, I took a look at Miami Hurricanes’ defensive end Jaelan Phillips and declared that he was the missing piece on Miami’s defensive line. I feel more strongly about that now than ever before. But who cares what I think?!?! It was the quotes from some of the league’s top analysts and execs that stood out most in my research.

Lance Zierlein, - Edge defender with plus physical attributes and a motor that keeps him working and attacking throughout the rep. Philips might have the combination of length and athleticism that would allow teams to look at him with a hand on the ground or standing depending on his weight. Adding play strength will be important so that he can stack it up when setting the edge as a run defender in the league. He’s a slippery-limbed pass rusher with good first-step quickness, which bodes well for his future rush success if he gets better with his hands and learns a go-to counter. He has a shot at becoming a solid future starter along the edge if his medicals pan out.

Tony Pauline, Pro Football Network - Explosive edge rusher who took his game to the next level and is coming off a sensational season. Breaks down well, plays with outstanding pad level, and gets leverage on opponents. Fluid moving in every direction and displays a tremendous first step off the snap. Flows well laterally and gets down the line of scrimmage to make plays in space.

Fundamentally sound displays solid technique with his hands, and covers a good amount of area on the field. Easily changes direction, bends off the edge, and shows great speed up the field. Agile, nicely redirects and plays tough, instinctive football. Does more than just rush up the field and get after the passer and gives effort defending the run. Chases downfield to make plays if necessary.


Jaelan Phillips vs. North Carolina State

10 tackles (3 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack.

Analysis | I’m not going to sit here and pretend that North Carolina State has a godly offensive line—because they don’t. But we also shouldn’t sit here and act like Jaelan Phillips didn’t dominate WHOEVER lined up opposite of him. Above, you can see the various ways Phillips can win at the line of scrimmage. Speed, power, finesse, he can do it all. He even showcased a spin move that would make Charles Harris blush. Phillips can set the EDGE extremely well and, as a pass-rusher, has all the tools. He’s a competitor that battles through the final whistle. Jaelan Phillips is unlike anything we’ve seen in Miami since #91 left for Nashville.

Jaelan Phillips vs. Virginia Tech

8 tackles (4 solo), 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks.

Analysis | This is the game where I fell in love with Jaelan Phillips, and while we would have all loved for him to match up opposite of Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech preferred to let him bully the right side of their offensive line. I mean, the very first play of the game, he walks right in like he just arrived at his inlaw’s house for mother’s day. That set the tone for the rest of the game because Phillips looked like a man possessed. Once again, showcasing speed that you only see from some of the league’s top pass-rushers. A swim move that left two rival lineman bumping noses. He did it all. Phillips is a massive player, and as I said on the podcast, he looks like he has tentacles. The Kraken has officially arrived in South Florida!

Bonus Film


+ “Dudes got more bend than the wrinkly part of a bendy straw.” -GhostOfAdamGase

+ Full arsenal of pass-rush weaponry (Swim/Bull-Rush/Spin/Club/RIP/)

+ High-motor; No quit.

+ Can play 4-3 DE or Outside Linebacker (Listed as OLB on official site)

+ Strong AF; can move large men with ease.

+ Phillips is still RAW; the potential is unreal.

+ Mr.Miyagi hands

+ Nice hair.

* #15 + visor =


- Injury history is a concern.

- Medically retired at UCLA.

- Small sample size.

- Passed on Najee Harris


Pro Football Focus


I don’t know if Jaelan Phillips will start on day one. After all, Brian Flores is a firm believer in competition and some of the veterans could hold the inside track. Then again, if the plan is to play the eleven best guys, it’s hard to imagine there are many players on the defensive line more talented than Jaelan Phillips. And I only assume both Brian Flores and Chris Grier were #stoked that Phillips was still available.

In the end, the Dolphins got the most talented pass-rusher in the nation (IMO). His last four games were as impressive as any and should have fans excited for what type of player he can become. Pair that alongside a pretty damn good coaching staff—and I believe the sky is truly the limit for Jaelan Phillips and the Miami Dolphins defense.