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Road to the Pros: LSU Linebacker Jacob Phillips Possesses Tools to Be Three Down Player in NFL

Phillips was the Tigers leading tackler during 2019 national championship run

Jacob Phillips had as impressive a season as any player on LSU’s defense in 2019, but probably got the least amount of attention in return.

Leading the Tigers with a team-high 113 tackles (7.5 for loss) and one sack, Phillips assumed the new role of signal-caller at middle linebacker with the departure of Butkus Award winner Devin White. He thrived in the new role, starting all 15 games, helping lead a stout and cohesive unit en route to the national title.

Phillips is best known for his leadership and athleticism. He’s one of the premier tacklers in college football, missing only three of his 88 tackle attempts last season. However, lining up alongside guys like Grant Delpit, Derek Stingley Jr, K’Lavon Chaisson and others, he’s been criminally underrated.

“He's pretty stout here,” Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network said of Phillips’ tackling ability. “Good short area burst and possesses plenty of upper body strength to wrap up and finish. He'll bring the feet through contact and finish sufficiently. His iso reps in the alley can be hit or miss just because he's prone to catching when he knows he's one on one.”

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Phillips posted a solid time of 4.66 in his second 40-yard dash attempt at the NFL Scouting Combine. With the limited attention he’s getting, expect Phillips to be selected higher than the mock projects. NFL GMs and scouts have surely examined his tape, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Most Intriguing Destination: Is it possible that Phillips could stay in Louisiana? With linebacker being a primary need for the New Orleans Saints in the upcoming draft, the Nashville, Tennessee native is likely on their radar. Many wonder why the Saints don’t pick more LSU players in the draft, but Phillips could be their chance to both fill a position of need and put that notion to rest.

“Conversely, a ‘complete package’ player has all of the tools on and off the field that you look for at their position. One of those players in the 2020 NFL draft class? LSU junior linebacker Jacob Phillips,” said Jonah Tuls of The Draft Network. "[Phillips] has excellent size and length. As a run defender, he uses his physical gifts to his advantage extremely well.

“Despite checking the boxes in size, athleticism, power, mental processing, cover skills, production, durability, and character, LSU linebacker Jacob Phillips is somehow flying under the radar in the media,” Tuls added. “I can guarantee you this — NFL front offices know exactly how good he is, and other draft analysts are playing catch-up.”

Writer’s Note: With the NFL Draft just under six weeks from now, concerns surrounding COVID-19 will likely force the league to make some tough decisions in the coming weeks. For Phillips and the other LSU draft prospects, the early rounds in Las Vegas were primed to be dominated by Tigers. Stay tuned for updates as the situation develops.