If there’s one player who sets the tone for the Buffalo Bills in heart, mind, and body, it would be longtime defensive tackle Kyle Williams. No one gives greater effort on or off the field, and no one matches Williams as a passionate professional. Williams decided to play another season in 2018, but eventually the core of the locker room will retire to greener pastures. With their third pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills selected a player who could try to fill those shoes in the future, Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips.
Phillips started the past two seasons for the Cardinal, though he missed half of his junior season with a torn ACL. Phillips rehabbed from that, came back as a senior and recorded a whopping 100 tackles - playing as a nose tackle! He has a relentless motor on the field, playing through the whistle and chasing down runners. He’s also a workout fiend, putting up 42 bench press reps at the Combine, and with a personal record in the mid-40’s.
Phillips was the most enjoyable interview Buffalo Rumblings conducted at the 2018 Senior Bowl. He spoke at length on every question, touching on his wrestling background (three-time state champion), his off-field interests (tutoring kids, reading the Bible cover-to-cover), and his pre-game preparation process.
On the field, the biggest question mark for Phillips might be which player he backs up. The Bills just signed Star Lotulelei to a huge contract to take care of their one-technique nose tackle responsibility, and that matches more closely with the skills Phillips displayed at Stanford than does the one-gap, downhill role that Williams plays. Phillips’s strength is in his core power, his hand usage, and his ability to hold the line of scrimmage against an opponent. He wins with technique, and doesn’t display great closing speed or overwhelming agility to be an effective pass rusher. Someone like Maurice Hurst, a 6’2” 285-pounder, would’ve more cleanly fit as a schematic replacement for Williams.
That doesn’t mean Phillips is a poor athlete, though. His 7.28-second three cone drill was in the 91st percentile for defensive tackles, and he managed an excellent 32-inch vertical leap at the Combine. He may work out as a Derek Wolfe or Ndamukong Suh styled power disruption specialist.
Bills fans should be excited to see Phillips join the team in round three. He adds much-needed talent to the defensive line rotation, and his intangible qualities are off the charts! (That was a joke.) Eventually, Williams will retire, and his passion and work ethic will be sorely missed. But the hardworking Phillips will set an example for the next generation of Buffalo Bills, on and off the field.
Grade the pick of Harrison Phillips in the third round
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