Cornerback is higher on the Steelers’ priority list than some might think. Western Michigan defensive back Darius Phillips checks several boxes but are they enough for the Steelers to pull the trigger on him?
Darius Phillips, Cornerback/Return Man, 5’10”, 190 lbs
2017 Defensive Stats: Games: 12 | Tackles: 39 | Tackles for Loss: 4 | Sacks: 1 | INT: 3 | TDs: 1|
2017 Return Stats: Games: 12 | KR: 26 | Yards: 683 | Yards per Return: 26.3 | TDs: 2 | PR: 13 | Yards: 102 | Yards per Return: 8
Key Combine Stats: 40-yard Dash: 4.54
The Skinny: Phillips was recruited to Kalamazoo as a receiver and that’s what he played his freshman season before flipping to the defensive side of the ball. His good hands and high-quality return skills are enticing especially for a team desperate for stability in the return game
What’s to Like: He’s a ball-hawk who uses his “receiver’s hands” to make plays… Had 12 interceptions and five taken to the house in three years as a defender… Can play both man or zone… Really improved his 40-time at Pro Day by getting into the 4.4 range… Good quickness in short amount of space… Some of his best moments were against top non-conference teams like USC and Michigan State… Reads QB very well and uses that short speed burst to break on the ball.
What’s Concerning: He’s likely going to have slide down to the slot nickel position due to size… Stopping the run needs to see vast improvement… Not an overly physical player and can get muscled around as a result… Relies on his hands a bit too much off the line of scrimmage and can get “grabby” downfield… Tackles high too often… Does not take on blocks well at all and struggles to get off of them.
The Verdict: Phillips often looks just like a guy who used to play receiver. His ball skills are excellent and he has very good hands but he lacks the aggressiveness needed to be a run-stopping corner in the NFL. That said, the fact that he makes plays in terms of turning the ball over and is a legitimate threat in the return game mean he’s going to play for someone. His size will limit him to a slot corner or emergency-type of guy on the outside but nothing more than that. With Mike Hilton entrenched as the Steelers’ slot guy, Phillips could provide ample back-up to him at a cheaper price than Coty Sesnabaugh and he brings the return value as well. Because of the poor tackling and limited size, I think he goes in the fourth or fifth round.
Videos Watched: vs. BUF ’17, vs. MSU ’17, vs. TOL ’16, vs. USC ’17
Video courtesy: DraftBreakdown.com, youtube.com
Stats courtesy: sports-reference.com
Photo courtesy: wmubroncos.com