Summary: If Phillips had returned for his senior year and had a big season, he could have been a high first-rounder in the 2016 NFL Draft. As it stands now, Phillips has a real shot of being a first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. He is a rare athlete who has surprising speed and quickness for such a large, strong defender. Phillips has a ton of upside with his best football in front of him.
Prior to the 2014 season, Phillips hadn't played a lot for the Sooners. He was off to a good start in 2013 before a back injury ended his year after only four games. He recorded seven tackles, with two for a loss and 1.5 sacks before the injury. Phillips was Oklahoma's best defender in 2014 and was a wrecking ball at the point of attack. For the year, the junior totaled 39 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, two sacks and one pass batted. He was much more disruptive than the numbers indicate.
For the NFL, Phillips looks like a starting nose tackle quickly. He is virtually impossible to move in the ground game. Phillips eats up two blockers and still maintains his gap. He plugs up runs and can power his way into the backfield to cause havoc before the play is set up.
Even though Phillips is a heavy nose tackle, he can contribute in the pass rush. Phillips uses his power to bull rush blockers down the middle of the pocket. He also has the quickness to get on the edge of a guard and charge towards the quarterback. Phillips won't produce a big sack total in the NFL, but he could be a three-down defender who adds to a team's pass rush by collapsing the pocket and making it hard for quarterbacks to step up.
Phillips could play in a 4-3 defense as a nose tackle. He also would be a great fit to remain in a 3-4 and play the zero-technique over centers. Against the vast majority of centers in the NFL, Phillips would prove a size/speed mismatch for his defense.
In the 2015 NFL Draft, Phillips looks like a late first-round or early second-round pick.
Player Comparison: Terrence Knighton. Knighton (6-3, 331) has been an impact defender at the point of attack. He is very strong with a surprising burst for a large nose tackle. Phillips is similar to Knighton except Phillips could have more strength, size, and quickness. If Phillips lands with good coaching and is driven to be great, he could be a better version of Knighton.
NFL Matches: Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore, San Francisco, Houston, Detroit, Green Bay, Dallas, Denver, New England
Given the demand for interior defensive linemen in the NFL, there shouldn't be any shortage of teams hoping to land Phillips in the first round, or early in the second round, of the 2015 NFL Draft. The highest spot Phillips could potentially hope to land would be with Cleveland in the teens. Phillips would be a great in the middle of the Browns' 3-4 defense and fits how Cleveland wants to build up the talent on its lines. Phillips could be a fit for the Browns with their selection at No. 19 or in the second round - if he makes it there.
The Bengals could use a nose tackle to pair with speedy three-technique Geno Atkins as Domata Peko had a down 2014 season. Phillips could inject some young talent in the middle of Cincinnati's line. The Ravens also need a replacement for Haloti Ngata and Phillips could be a perfect fit.
San Francisco might consider some defensive line help given the loss of Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. If the 49ers take Phillips, they could move Quinton Dial to end as a potential replacement for Smith.
Houston signed Vince Wilfork and drafted Louis Nix last year, but the organization has shown interest in nose tackles, including Phillips. Wilfork can also play defensive end. If the Texans trade down, Phillips could be in option for them.
In the NFC North, Phillips has a few landing spots. The Packers brought back B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion on short-term deals, but need a long-term nose tackle. Detroit replaced its departed tackles with Haloti Ngata, but could use another starter next to him, plus Ngata is only signed for one year.
Denver lost Knighton and sources say the team likes Phillips. He could be Knighton's replacement for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
The Cowboys are weak at defensive tackle, and Phillips would upgrade their defensive line. New England also has to replace Wilfork, and Phillips would be perfect for that. However, the Patriots probably will have to trade up to get him as it looks unlikely he falls to No. 32.