Browns UDFA edge rusher Lonnie Phelps was Combine freak

Miami-Ohio v Minnesota
Miami-Ohio v Minnesota / David Berding/GettyImages

If you had the opportunity to sign an edge rusher who is faster than Myles Garrett and only two reps shy of his mark at the bench press, you should do it. That's exactly what the Cleveland Browns have done in signing Lonnie Phelps, who played three years at Miami and then transferred to Kansas, where he had a breakout year last season, with 11.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

However, Phelps is believed to be signing with the Browns as an undrafted free agent (UDFA), rather than costing them a valuable draft pick.

Phelps is considered too small to be a defensive end at the Pro level, at 6-foot-3 and 244 pounds. However, there has to be a place for a guy with Combine stats like his. Just for comparison, let's see how he compares to Myles Garrett.

40-yard dash: Phelps, 4.55 seconds; Garrett, 4.64 seconds.
10-yard split: Phelps, 1.62 seconds; Garrett, 1.63 seconds.
Bench press: Phelps, 31 reps; Garrett, 33 reps.
Vertical: Phelps (Pro Day), 34 inches; Garrett, 41 inches.
Broad Jump: Phelps, 9-foot-11-inches; Garrett,10-foot-8-inches.

Phelps also turned in a three-cone drill time of 7.28, which is okay for a lineman. Garrett didn't participate; Ogbo Oronkonkwo turned in 7.09 seconds.

Another relevant data point is that former Browns star Olivier Vernon clocked 7.39. Thus, Garrett was preposterously excellent in the broad jump and vertical, and we think Phelps was average at the three-cone drill.

However, he grades out like a guy who should be able to cover and tackle most tight ends and running backs as a linebacker, but perhaps not outstanding. Alternatively, his numbers suggest he can also be a situational pass-rushing defensive end.

His lack of heft is the main reason for doubting his run-stopping ability because he put up numbers in college. The factor that stands out is that Phelps was significantly faster than Garrett and almost as strong, which is hard to believe.

There are always outliers, of course. Von Miller is an athletic freak who really does play like a true defensive end at 250 pounds. Miller may even be an alien from another planet with a stronger gravitational force field than earth, which might explain why he is so much stronger than normal earthlings.

Phelps isn't expected to be Von Miller. But perhaps he could give the Browns 10 to 15 snaps per game as a rotational defensive end in certain situations. What would happen if Garrett were allowed to be fresh for the fourth quarter because the Browns actually had more than one viable defensive end and could establish a viable rotation at that position in 2023? That was not the case last season.

In college, the Jayhawks were so happy with Phelps' ability to penetrate into the backfield of opposing offenses that they did not explore his capabilities in pass coverage. That doesn't necessarily mean he cannot be taught those skills, because he has those tools.

True, we would have liked to have seen a bit better time for the 3-cone drill. Also, he will turn 23 in Summer Camp, which is rather elderly for a developmental player who may be learning a new position. There's always risk with any UDFA.

Let's hope he will listen to his coaches and avoid hanging out too much with the likes of Perrion Winfrey, and see how well he learns in summer camp. But this seems like a great signing for a UDFA.

Next. Browns sign OSU's Ronnie Hickman as UDFA. dark