The Indianapolis Colts might need to address their lack of pass rush in the 2021 NFL Draft, barring a sudden change of heart with regard to Justin Houston.
Rather than drafting Penn State’s Jayson Oweh, the Colts could select one of a pair of Miami Hurricanes, as both Gregory Rousseau and Jaelan Phillips look like future studs.
Even though Rousseau is not the top 10 lock many assumed that he would be at the beginning of the season, he is still regarded as a near-unanimous first-round prospect.
Having said that, Phillips, his replacement, might have just leapfrogged him.
Manny Diaz finally gave Phillips a home, and his ability to burst around the edge with blinding speed has turned him from a late-round flier into a legit Day 1 starter. His pro day somehow exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations, as he amassed Jadeveon Clowney-esque numbers.
While Rousseau put up a respectable 4.71 40-yard dash, Phillips was timed at 4.56 despite weighing almost as much as Rousseau. Phillips paired that with a 1.59 second 10-yard split and a 7.01 3-cone time. These numbers have to vault him into the first-round conversation.
Will the Colts draft Jaelan Phillips or Gregory Rousseau?
Phillips was an unlikely breakout star, as the former 5-star recruit quit football at UCLA before transferring to Miami, where he recorded eight sacks without Rousseau, who has started to take a bit of a slide down draft boards behind Michigan’s Kwity Paye.
The 6-7 Rousseau is a better run defender than Phillips, as his power allows him to easily disengage from blocks. Phillips is a work in progress, but the amount of times pass rushers with his combination of speed and production are available this late in the draft are few and far between.
Eight sacks is impressive, but it’s not as impressive as the 15.5 Rousseau totaled during what would be his only year as a starter in college football. Ballard, Frank Reich, and Matt Eberflus will have to deal with two one-hit wonders, one of whom looks like the ideal defensive end for Eberflus’ 4-3 and one of whom is a genuine physical marvel.
It’s rare to call someone with just one year of starting experience the more “finished product”, but Rousseau is a prototypical 4-3 defensive end with a bit more polish to his game.
However, if the Colts want to swing for the fences, Phillips has shown he is a one-of-a-kind athlete, and there should be no reason he falls out of the first round.