With the 35th pick in the 6th round, the Dallas Cowboys took another deep backup in Virginia tight end John Phillips.
Carrying in the suddenly strong UVA tradition of producing NFL-caliber tight ends under coach Al Groh, Phillips went from being a part-time starter to first-team All-ACC selection in 2008. Teams looking for an athletic receiver to threaten the seam should look elsewhere, but as a secure short- to medium-range target with the size and strength to contribute immediately as a blocker, Phillips quietly ranks as one of the draft’s better all-around tight ends. Had an arm span of 34 1/2 inches and a hand span of 10 1/4 inches at the combine.
Talented two-way player at tight end and defensive end for coach Will Fields at Bath County HS … considered the 24th-best tight end nationally by CollegeFootballNews.com and ESPN.com, and 30th by Scout.com … 3 stars by Scout.com … 87th on Scout.com’s East Hot 100 list … listed as the No. 15 player in Virginia by SuperPrep, 16th by Scout.com, 21st by TheSabre.com and 24th by Rivals.com … listed 16th among players in Virginia by the Roanoke Times and 24th on the Charlottesville Daily Progress “Gold List” … named first-team All-State tight end as a senior when he caught 40 passes for 714 yards and five touchdowns … Roanoke Times All-Timesland tight end and region defensive Player of the Year his final year … first-team All-State at tight end and second-team as a defensive end as a junior … caught 25 passes for 495 yards and six touchdowns in just 10 games that season … finished his career with 87 receptions for 1,513 yards and 16 touchdowns … defensively he had 324 tackles, including 90 for loss and 42 sacks … also a standout in basketball and baseball … three-time All-Pioneer District honoree in both sports … All-State and MVP in baseball in 2004.
Positives: Prototype height for the position with long limbs. Solid build with room for additional growth. Reads the defense and can find the soft spot in the short and medium levels of zone coverage. Reliable hands. Catches the ball cleanly with his hands and secures it quickly. Good body control to catch the pass outside of his frame. Lacks the quickness off the snap that teams prefer, but accelerates smoothly. Physical inline blocker. At least adequate quickness off the snap and laterally for the down block. Provides a good initial pop and effort as a drive blocker. Veteran with four years of starting experience.
Negatives: Strictly a short- to medium-range target. Lacks the straight-line speed to challenge the seam. Only adequate elusiveness to make defenders miss in space. Occasionally lines up in the slot, but lacks the burst off the snap to continue in this role in the NFL. Could use more bulk in his upper body. Provides pop as a blocker, but lack of initial quickness evident in this area, as well. Struggles to recover if beaten initially.
At least Scouts, Inc. has heard of this guy:
Overall Football Traits Production 3 2005: Phillips appears in all 12 games and starts the three games Virginia opens in a two tight end set. He catches two passes for a total of 27 yards and one touchdown. 2006: Phillips starts four of the 12 games he appears in catching two passes for a total of 65 yards. 2007: Phillips starts eight of the 13 games he appears in catching 17 passes for a total of 193 yards and two touchdowns. 2008: Phillips starts all 12 games catching 48 passes for a total of 385 yards and two touchdowns. Height-Weight-Speed 3 Adequate bulk and room on frame to add significant weight but top-end speed is marginal for position. Durability 2 Durability is not a concern to out knowledge. Character 2 2008: Named the Rock Weir Award winner for the offense as the most improved player during spring drills.
Tight End specific Traits Ball Skills 3 Stays focused and looks ball into hands but traps ball against frame too much and vulnerable to dropping passes should catch. Separation Skills 3 Shows adequate footwork running routes but doesn’t show much burst coming out of cuts and going to have a harder time separating from man coverage at the NFL level. Struggles to avoid contact at the line of scrimmage and can get muscled out of routes. Blocking 2 Initially gets hands inside defender’s frame and drives legs once in position but doesn’t always lock on and slides off some blocks as a result. Got stood up by Georgia Tech DE Michael Johnson during 2007 game. Takes adequate angles to downfield blocks and shows adequate body control in space. Toughness 2 Plays with a mean streak and appears to take pride in blocking. Lowers shoulders into defenders when running after the catch. Big-Play Potential 4 Fluid turning upfield and runs hard but isn’t going to make many defenders miss and doesn’t show a second gear in space. Takes too long to reach top-end speed and isn’t much of a vertical threat.
Calvin Watkins makes an interesting point:Â “Cowboys TE coach John Garrett should know exactly what to expect from Phillips, a good inline blocker who will serve as the No. 3 tight end. John Garrett was Virginia’s receivers coach before coming to the Cowboys two seasons ago.”
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