Utah CB Clark Phillips III’s tape is more impressive than his combine numbers

Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III enters the 2023 NFL Draft after starting 31 career games across three seasons. Phillips earned unanimous All-American honors in 2022. He was a finalist for the 2022 Jim Thorpe Award (top defensive back in college football) and a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award (best defender in college football). Phillips was named the 2022 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year en route to earning Pac-12 All-Conference First Team honors.

Clark Phillips III’s strengths

Studying Phillips’ tape is an exhilarating process. Philips thrived while playing under the tutelage of highly-accomplished head coach Kyle Whittingham, who possesses one of the best defensive minds in the nation. An explosive and dynamic athlete, Phillips developed into a complete cornerback with a high football I.Q. and ideal read-and-react skills across three seasons at Utah. Phillips’ ascension allows him to blend athletic traits with technical savviness. Phillips showcased consistent improvement at Utah, which insinuates he’s an ascending talent that will continue taking positive steps forward at the next level.

His ball skills are exceptional and the numbers reflect that. Phillips recorded an astounding 30 pass breakups and nine interceptions at Utah. A defender that lives around the football, Phillips also forced two fumbles, recovered one, and had five tackles for loss. Phillips routinely creates turnovers and negative plays.

Phillips is a quick-twitch athlete that was battle-tested by some excellent receivers in the Pac-12. In the biggest of matchups, Phillips displayed his ability to mirror-and-match opposing pass-catchers. Phillips’ change of direction abilities allow him to sink his hips and make smooth transitions throughout the progress of a route. He can run step-for-step with receivers while staying within their hip pocket.

Phillips plays with the temperament of a defender that’s been called “undersized” to his face his entire life. Phillips possesses elite competitive toughness. Phillips is willing to come downhill and stick his nose in the dirt. A versatile talent that played both boundary cornerback and the nickel, Phillips’ hard-nosed spirit allowed him to thrive against bigger receivers outside.

Clark Phillips III’s weaknesses

There’s no denying that Phillips is undersized. He measured in at 5’9 and 184 pounds at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. Phillips’ size deficiencies will lead to instances of his body and frame not allowing him to make the plays his mind can. Phillips punches well above his weight class, but opposing NFL teams will occasionally find success by forcing him to play through contact, or by locating mismatch opportunities at the catch point against bigger, longer receivers.

Clark Phillips III’s highlights

Clark Phillips III’s 2023 NFL Combine results

Phillips did not enjoy a particularly fruitful combine. Phillips ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds with a 1.51 10-yard split. The 10-yard split was excellent, but the 40-yard dash was average. Phillips also posted a 33-inch vertical jump and 4.32 20-yard split, which brings his explosion and long-speed into question. Phillips also posted 18 reps on the bench press. Those results led to Phillips scoring a disappointing Relative Athletic Score of 5.37. Phillips’ MockDraftable athletic comparisons include recent undersized draftees such as Amik Robertson and Marcus Jones.

What other people are saying about Clark Phillips III

Lance Zierlein of NFL.Com had the following to say:

Phillips might not be a big, long cornerback, but he’s a playmaker. He has the play traits to continue down that same path as a pro. He’s a voracious student of the game and has developed a feel for reading the quarterback’s drops and eyes. He’s a little tight-hipped and can give away separation at the top of the route, but when he’s clued in, Phillips uses aggressive angles to search for takeaways. He’s tough, smart and knows how to play. He should become a solid nickel cornerback, but his success could be tethered to matchups from week to week.

Overall, I’m not concerned with Phillips’ lackluster showing at the combine. Phillips’ tape highlights a competitive, athletic, smart and technically advanced cornerback prospect. NFL general managers must decide how much they value ideal size and measurements versus production and mentality. The 2023 NFL Draft features an extremely deep class of cornerbacks. Phillips should garner top-32 consideration.

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