One of the trends of Andrew Berry’s first draft was drafting young and athletic players at positions of need. Jacob Phillips fits that criteria, as his athleticism stands out and he is still only 21-years-old. The Browns also had major depth issues at linebacker, which Phillips quells some of those concerns.
Phillips was the leading tackler for the National Champion LSU Tigers in 2019, as he was able to come up and finish tackles. However, Phillips lacks football IQ and is still learning the linebacker position.
In the case of the Browns, they want fast linebackers who can make plays all over the field. Phillips has the athleticism and speed to make those plays, but his lack of instincts could take him out of plays, including in coverage.
With questions at linebacker, it would have made more sense for the Browns to target a more seasoned linebacker who could step into a role on the defense from day one. With Phillips, he will likely make more of an impact in 2021 instead of 2020.
The biggest risk of betting on athleticism and upside is athletes don’t always pan out in the NFL. Phillips is going to encounter even better athletes at every position than he did in college, so he will have to become more of an instinctual player in order to show off his athleticism that helped him produce in college.
Because of Cleveland’s immediate need at linebacker and the expectation that Phillips is best suited to sit in 2020, this pick does not have the best value. Phillips could emerge as a solid pick in the long-term, but this seems to be a boom-or-bust selection by the Browns, making him one of the lower ranked picks by the Browns.