The Los Angeles Rams are undergoing a defensive scheme and regime change. With that being said, former Pro Bowl starting inside linebacker Cory Littleton has departed via free agency. That leaves the Rams set to start Micah Kiser, a former fifth-round pick and one of their young crop of inexperienced talent. While the Rams have talent and potential at the position, one could make the argument that they will need to look in the NFL Draft early on for a replacement to Littleton.
Here’s a linebacker in the draft who could possess some value to the depth chart, Jacob Phillips.
The former five-star recruit out of high school played every game his true freshman year but the majority was special teams work. In his sophomore season, Jacob Phillips started 11 games for the LSU Tigers and finished second on the team in tackles. His junior year, Phillips started every game during the National Championship season. He declared for the NFL draft following his junior year.
Phillips has two-straight years of starting experience for a college football powerhouse. He’s a good tackler in space and offers patience in his game. Solid, hard-working player that wants to finish plays. He’s got a quick first step that allows him to get the drop on a backfield. He tested well at the combine, showcasing solid long speed in the 40 that will be put to good use on special teams. Very unselfish player and understands how playing overly-aggressive can hurt the team. Productive in two years as a starter. He has some pop behind his pads.
Phillips doesn’t display great play-strength. He plays like a sidekick and not the alpha male inside like you want in an inside linebacker. Average lateral ability which leads to him getting to the sideline late. He has a tendency to get blocked straight out of a play. Questions lie about how much the scheme helped Phillips’ production and how much he truly transcended the scheme. Lacks true coverage skills and is slow with his change of direction, likely limiting his ceiling in coverage. Can be a rather inconsistent tackler and not one to rely solely on as a solo-tackler. Truly passive when deconstructing blocks, prefers to let the blocker come to him, doesn’t have that aggressive shed you want. Has shown flashes of being able to do most things but lacks true consistency in most areas.
Three Plays on Tape
Ed Orgeron said #LSU adjusted its pass rush because Florida was giving them a lot of first down throws.
Here, LSU rushers five, and it becomes six when Jacob Phillips commits to the rush and gets a hit on Kyle Trask that nearly produces a Grant Depit pick. pic.twitter.com/WaWCpYf8O1
— Brooks Kubena (@BKubena) October 13, 2019
I'm all aboard the Jacob Phillips (6) train.
6'4 linebacker with length, instincts, speed, and stopping power.
Look for him to have a huge year in Devin White's role. pic.twitter.com/RGK6Wvwu1V
— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) August 18, 2019
This is where Jacob Phillips' length (6'4) comes into play in coverage. A true three-down backer. pic.twitter.com/3rfA4AHdQK
— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) August 18, 2019
Jacob Phillips was a special recruit coming out of high school but unfortunately, he’s lacking key skills to be a starting linebacker at the next level as it stands now. With his athletic profile and the flashes, he has in his game. You could definitely make the argument he can be developed into a future starter. However, it will take a lot of work, as he projects to more of a developmental, special teamer that can be utilized in sub-packages. The confusing thing to me is the fact that Phillips decided to declare for the draft. Then again, while I think he could have used another year of college, there’s a chance going to the NFL and getting the NFL-level coaching could be more beneficial. Do not be surprised if Phillips makes a 53-man roster but also don’t be surprised if he’s a top practice squad guy.
Draft Grade: Late 5th round – Early 6th round
Phillips can help your team in some facet. He’s got an intriguing ceiling due to how highly sought after he was in high school. There’s a chance that while the LSU defense helped him with his production, it may have also hurt him and even overshadowed him. Players like Devin White and Patrick Queen are elite-level prospects going into the NFL. Phillips played next to both of them and there’s a good chance he came off looking less of an alpha due to who he was next to. The Rams could certainly use a player like Phillips later in the draft. If he’s available in the sixth-round it might make some sense to add him to the stable of linebackers already on the roster.