The Packers are one of the most conservative teams in NFL Free Agency but when they take swings in the draft, there is nothing conservative about their approach. They have shown they are willing to fly in the face of public opinion both within the league and with their shareholders, and given the team’s record the past few seasons I have faith in Gutenkunst to build a complete roster. They seem to pick highly based upon positional value (see first-round picks on secondary pieces Jaire Alexander and Darnell Savage, defensive end Rashan Gary, and quarterback Jordan Love). As I have previously mentioned they also like to take shots at high-end athletes that test well and meet certain height/weight/sped requirements.
Paul Bretl of Cheesehead TV has already broken down which Packers players meet these historic thresholds but one guy who I keep coming back to is Jaelan Phillips from Miami. In an offseason when the Packers decided to pay Preston Smith (again) and extend Za’Darius Smith, it would be right in line with what they have done previously after signing both of those guys and drafting Rashan Gary to give short and long term stability to a very important position group. The fruits of last year’s defense weren’t as sweet as they were the season previously for the Smith Brothers, but Rashan Gary seems to be on his way to a highly productive NFL career. If the front office considered the first two years of the Smith Bros and Gary a success, then picking Jaelan Phillips at 29 could be seen as a “double down” on this bet.
Jaelan Phillips was regarded as the No. 1 overall recruit by the 247Sports Composite coming out of Redlands East Valley High School. In his junior and senior season, Phillips combined for 218 tackles and 30.5 sacks, and two interceptions. The five-star defensive end received 20 offers, according to 247Sports, before selecting the in-state UCLA Bruins over other perennial nation programs such as Alabama.
Phillips’s length and versatility allow him to be a fit in most defensive schemes, which will certainly apply to Barry’s new scheme. He profiles as a player who can play some base 4-3 end and line up as a 3-4 outside linebacker. His success inside on tape doesn’t hurt any, either. Phillips works as a potential 4i, 5-technique, or 6/7 tech defensive end on early downs and can slide inside and play 3t on third down. Green Bay has often taken chances on players with elite high school recruiting profiles. Jaelan Phillips was the top of the top in that regard.From Ross Uglem in the 2021 CheeseheadTV Draft Guide-
The biggest concern for Jaelan Phillips is his medicial history, which is extensive. Per PFF, Phillips was hit by a car while riding a scooter while at UCLA in 2018 and suffered wrist and head injuries. Phillips then retired later that year after suffering another concussion. He returned to the game, though, this time at Miami and was arguably the best defensive end in the country over the second half of 2020. He racked up nine sacks and 36 total pressures in his final seven games.
While medicals will be big for him, Phillips’ five-star tools finally translated to five-star production at the end of the 2020 season. While he was not able to attend the medical combine that took place recently in Indianapolis due to COVID concerns, he was healthy to end the season with the Hurricanes and tested very well at his pro day.
While I believe that his talent levels are viewed highly within the league, if he falls on the first round of the draft and the Packers are confident in their diagnosis of his medical condition, they could pick up an absolute steal.
——————Joe Kelley is a lifelong Packer fan born in Wisconsin and currently living surrounded by Patriots fans in New England- please send messages of support to @Jkelleylol on Twitter or @j.k.lolz on Instagram.