It's been said before and it bears repeating: It's really not fair to evaluate a draft pick or a draft class until at least two years have passed, maybe even three.
But that's never stopped draft analysts from providing immediate grades, and so it was again in 2021.
Here then was the immediate evaluation of the Dolphins' selection of defensive end Jaelan Phillips with the 18th pick in the draft from 10 national draft analysts.
Analysis: If teams are satisfied from a medical perspective, Phillips is an easy selection. The talent and potential is there for Phillips to be a dominant player off the edge at the NFL level, and he also offers discipline and awareness against the run, making him a complete package. His ability to dominate on the inside with his quickness and array of pass-rushing moves makes him an asset on every down in the league.
The Dolphins needed two things out of the first round: A speed receiver for their timing-and-rhythm passing game, and help at the edge. If Phillips is past the concussion issues that caused him to quit football when he was at UCLA, he’s the best edge defender in this class, and the Dolphins did outstanding work with their two similarly-named guys — Jaylen Waddle and Jaelan Phillips. Grade: A
Analysis: Jaelan Phillips boasts the best production of any edge rusher in this class, and if medical concerns weren’t a factor, he could have come off the board much earlier. He recorded 42 quarterback pressures on 542 snaps last season for Miami but has already had to walk away from the game once due to concussion issues. As a result, he has less than 1,000 career college snaps to his name. There are concerns, but Miami is playing with house money with all of their draft capital and can afford to take that kind of gamble. Grade: Very Good
Analysis: The big question here will obviously be the medicals, after the lengthy injury history that forced Phillips to retire from football for a time during his collegiate career. There’s no denying his talent, though, and there’s a reason he’s the first edge defender off the board. He’s most talented pure pass rusher in this year’s class, and he fills Miami’s biggest need on defense. If he can stay healthy, this could end up being a huge steal. Grade: B+
Phillips Analysis: Jaelan Phillips makes it another good selection for the Dolphins in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Phillips addresses the Dolphins’ second-biggest need for a pass rusher and allows them to enter Day 2 with their focus on their remaining needs. Phillips has a desirable combination of speed, strength, and weapons to succeed as a pass rusher in multiple ways. Grade: A
Analysis: I love this pick for the Dolphins, who nab my top-ranked edge rusher at the no. 18 spot. Phillips comes with concerns about his prior injury history (he briefly retired from football after battling wrist and head injuries), but he’s big, fast, and disruptive. He has the skill set to emerge as a double-digit sack producer early in his career. Grade: A-
Analysis: The Dolphins jumped on the best pass rusher available to help defensive-minded Brian Flores. They could have considered tackle/end hybrid Kwity Paye for freakish ability, but they ultimately went for another smooth athlete who proved himself worthy of delivering greater production in the NFL. Flores and his staff will mold Phillips into a star getting to QBs from different angles. He can be his version of Chandler Jones. Grade: A
Phillips: A really big swing for the fences. Phillips is the most talented edge player in this class, but there were some major concerns about his health after he was advised to medically retire following multiple concussions at UCLA. Transferring to Miami brought out Phillips’ pass-rush juice, as he was arguably the best edge defender in college football for a stretch last season. But Brian Flores’ no-nonsense approach could go one of two ways for a player who had some character questions. Grade: B
Analysis: Phillips (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) is one of the more difficult players to evaluate in the first round. He burst on to the scene last year with eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. Phillips is explosive and plays with a high level of energy. But there are significant concerns too. Per Dane Brugler, Phillips was diagnosed with three concussions in college. He missed most of the 2018 season while at UCLA and sat out in 2019. Phillips suffered ankle, wrist and hand injuries earlier in his career. This is a boom-or-bust pick, and I don’t like the Dolphins taking on this much risk so early in the draft. Grade: C-
Analysis: Pegged as one of this year's biggest wild cards due to a history of injuries and other off-field concerns, Phillips might be even more of a roll of the dice than the Dolphins' top pick, wideout Jaylen Waddle. Phillips' upside is undeniable. He was viewed by many as this year's top edge rusher, a position of concern for Miami. Of course, given the proximity of where he evolved in a college superstar, however, GM Chris Grier should know as much about Phillips and his track record as anyone. With multiple first round picks the next couple of years, the Dolphins can afford some gambles. It will be interesting to see if these moves turn out to eventually be viewed as franchise-makers or breakers. Grade: B
Analysis: Phillips was an excellent pick in terms of his on-field value. If not for his injury issues at UCLA that caused him to retire from football briefly before heading to Miami, he would have been picked earlier. He’s a powerful pass rusher who uses his strength to stack edge blockers and chase in the run game. Phillips is an all-around player who, if healthy, can be a quality starter immediately. Grade: A- (note the grade was based on the Dolphins' two first-round selections)