A Hurricane Everywhere for Vikings in 1st Round

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On Friday — 13 days before the 2021 NFL Draft — Jaelan Phillips’ name is linked to the Minnesota Vikings, seemingly everywhere. An unsophisticated Google search will prove that his name, like a storm, is suddenly mock-drafted to the Vikings via multiple outlets.

Before Phillips-Mania, the most frequently mock-drafted names for Minnesota at its 14th overall pick were Kwity Paye (EDGE, Michigan), Christian Darrisaw (OT, Virginia Tech), Alijah Vera-Tucker (OL, USC), Gregory Rousseau (EDGE, Miami), and Rashawn Slater (OT, Northwestern).

To be sure, those men are not totally usurped by the Phillips stuff, but Phillips’ name just strangely engulfed draft predictions. He’s an EDGE rusher — like Paye and fellow Hurricane, Rousseau — and some folks interpret his skill set as a bedfellow to current Vikings defensive end, Danielle Hunter.

Here’s the rundown of Phillips-to-the-Vikings.

The first is a CBS Sports mock draft authored by Josh Edwards. He considers Phillips the second-best EDGE behind Paye, and says about him:

Minnesota could go offensive line in the first round depending on how the board shakes out but it would likely be more inclined to take an edge rusher given how the board has shaken out.

Then, Edwards’ coworker, Chris Trapasso from CBS Sports, also chooses the Hurricane for the Vikings. His mock draft claims that Phillips is the 21st-best overall player in the draft, so Minnesota would be stretching to snatch him at #14. Trapasso on the pick:

Is this the easiest prospect-team pairing in Round 1 (after Lawrence and the Jags of course)? I think so. Phillips meets all the physical requirements the Vikings typically have for their top selections and fills a major need.

After that, Charles Davis of NFL.com makes it the Friday trifecta — he, too, plops Phillips on the 2021 Vikings. And his explanation is succinct:

Phillips is the best edge rusher in the draft, in my humble opinion. He reminds me a bit of current Vikings DE Danielle Hunter.

The defensive end spot for Minnesota is a “need,” but some disagree on whether it supersedes the necessity for an offensive lineman or two. If Spielman does choose Phillips (or Paye or Rousseau), well, he will be tasked with finding startable offensive linemen in later rounds of the draft or from the table scraps of free agency.

Here’s what Phillips could bring to the Vikings if he lives up to expectations. Phillips started out at UCLA for two seasons before transferring to Miami. There, he was coached by Jim Mora Jr.

The UCLA coach says of Phillips:

I’d want him in the locker room with the men around him He’s a leader. He’s got great energy. He’s a tremendous person. He comes from a great background. His family is supportive but they’re not overwhelming. They’re there for him. He’s been through the fires; he’s come out the other side a better man. He understands life and he’s extremely motivated, and that has nothing to do with the amazing talent that he brings to your team. He is a supremely talented athlete. I see comparisons to Shawne Merriman. I think those are probable accurate. I mean, he can get after the passer. If he just pins his ears back and goes, he can go. But he also has the athleticism to drop. I think that’s one of the things that makes him so attractive is that there’s not a team out there that can’t use a guy like Jaelan Phillips.”

The Vikings have drafted more players from UCLA (where Phillips started) since Spielman took on the general manager title in 2012 — than any other school. Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Jeff Locke, and Jeff Baca are those Bruins.

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