Following trading away all-world cornerback Jalen Ramsey back in March, the Los Angeles Rams are left without true answers at the cornerback position. Aside from Cobie Durant, who has a solid end to the season but is not a lock to be a perennial starter, the Rams will be searching for reliable guys in the secondary, a part of the defense that is vital to success in today’s NFL.
With that being said, this year’s draft class is absolutely loaded with talented cornerbacks, so Les Snead will have an opportunity to fill that need with a plug-and-play starter at the position. With a highest pick in the Sean McVay era in the 36th overall pick, there is good reason to believe the Rams could spend that pick on a cornerback.
There is one cornerback in particular that I believe is worth that pick if he is available, and that cornerback is Clark Phillips III out of the University of Utah.
Phillips, who started the past two season at Utah, is a corner who thrives on his instincts as well as his innate feel for route concepts, both recipes for the makings of a stud corner in the NFL. Last season, Phillips racked up six interceptions and took two of those interceptions back to the house for six, displaying a big-time playmaking ability that allows for long playing careers.
Perhaps my favorite part about Phillips is the fact that he is 5’9” 184 lbs, but you would never be able to tell when you turn on the tape. After what some would call a sub-par performance at the NFL combine, there may be some scouts that cross him off their big board all together, but far too many times scouts have been proven wrong when they put too much into the measurables of the player and disregard what the player is putting on tape.
What Phillips lacks in size and speed he makes up for in technique and film study, and let’s be real now, a 4.51 is not blazing fast for an NFL corner, however, it is fast enough for players who play with high football IQ and excellent technique. In this highlight of Clark Phillips, you can see the instincts pop off the screen, easily reading both the route and the quarterback simultaneously which leads to putting himself in position to make plays on the football.
There is ZERO wasted motion nor hesitation when he is playing, exuding a confidence and aggressiveness that cannot be coached no matter how hard one may try. Playing cornerback is all about playing situational football and making big plays, both of which Phillips excel at. Pair those with ball skills and the ability to turn those takeaways instant points, you now have yourself what folks like to call a “game-changer”.
The knocks on Phillips typically have to do moreso with physical intangibles, with scouts having concerns over his lack of size and not possessing off-the-charts athleticism. One of his weaknesses listed on his draft profile on NFL.com says “Downfield physicality could lead to flags at the next level” which, in my eyes, is a pretty solid weakness. Being over-aggressive is something that is easily correctable and, with a player as football savvy as Phillips is, can actually become a strength.
In a mostly-positive review on Phillips by Thinking Football, this YouTube breakdown shows a potential weakness in tackling and playing in the slot.
Obviously a majority of Rams fans would love to see the team draft an offensive lineman, which I fully expect them to do at some point during the draft. With that being said, corner is definitely a need as well, so using the 36th overall pick to draft the best overall player at a position of need is the route they need to take. If Clark Phillips III is available at 36th overall, the Rams need to take him, or they may regret it for years to come.