By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell
Three years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. A year later, we started the Why Slide? series, and this year, it is back. Feel free to email me requests for "Why the Slide?" and "Why Undrafted?" at email@example.com
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Last year during the college football season, there were a number of team scouts who were impressed with Illinois speed rusher Carroll Phillips. He displayed a fast first-step off the ball with the ability to bend around the corner and close on the quarterback. As a senior, Phillips totaled nine sacks with 20 tackles for a loss while playing for a defense that had decreased opportunities to rush the passer given the Illini were often playing from behind. Phillips looked like a nice prospect as speed rusher who would be a great fit in a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker.
Team sources said the main reason why Phillips went undrafted was he was flunked medically by team doctors. One team contact said that their doctors believe that Phillips was one hit away from a career-ending injury. Phillips also had off-the-field issues in his past, but teams said those were cleared up in Phillips' favor. He also didn't play as well to close out his senior year as he did at the beginning, so those later tapes didn't help him either. Still, the medical issue was the biggest negative, and that is what led to Phillips going undrafted.
After going undrafted, Phillips signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. I'm not confident that the Jaguars are a good fit for Phillips. For starters, they are stacked on the defensive line with some expensive free agent veterans and some draft picks who will be assured of roster spots ahead of Phillips. The Jaguars may have only one or two roster spots open for competition on the defensive line.
It wouldn't be surprising if they moved Phillips to outside linebacker, considering they employ a 4-3 defense. Phillips will be a work in progress there after playing defensive end in college. The best case scenario for him could be to impress enough in the preseason to earn a spot on the Jaguars' or another team's practice squad. Spending a redshirt year developing as an outside linebacker could help Phillips to compete for a roster spot in Year 2 of his career. However, Phillips staying healthy looks like a serious question mark after the medical evaluation he received prior to the 2017 NFL Draft.
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