2021 NFL Draft: Early, mid, and late-round EDGE targets for the Bengals

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 31: Jonathon Cooper #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action against Rasheed Walker #53 of the Penn State Nittany Lions during the second half at Beaver Stadium on October 31, 2020 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 31: Jonathon Cooper #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action against Rasheed Walker #53 of the Penn State Nittany Lions during the second half at Beaver Stadium on October 31, 2020 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Bengals
Jaelan Phillips (Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports) /

Bengals’ EDGE targets: Jaelan Phillips, Miami

Target round: Pick 38, Round 2

Jaelan Phillips will be a difficult prospect to get a grip on. If you evaluate him on tape alone, then you would be hard-pressed not to view him as the best pass rusher in this year’s draft. At 6’5, 266-pounds, he is built exactly the way the Bengals like their edge rushers. A nice blend of power, speed, and technical skill. A package that should cause offensive tackles in the NFL a major headache.

The drawback is undoubtedly his injury history. Phillips retired from football in 2018 after a third successive concussion. That, coupled with a moped accident, left him pursuing a career in music and dropping down to 220-pounds. Having transferred to Miami, he was rejuvenated and back in action last season, recording eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss.

If the Bengals can’t come to a long-term solution with Lawson, then it might bump up the need to find an additional edge rusher. While Phillips could be the long-term successor to Lawson, it would be surprising to see the Bengals gamble on such a prospect with so many other positional holes to fill.

Medical re-checks will be key to solidifying Phillips’ draft stock. With a history like his, it’s safe to assume he will be off some draft boards already. If he is still in play for the Bengals and they are comfortable with his past, then early in the second round could be a steal.

In 2021, Phillips would likely be a third-down specialist for the Bengals, allowing Sam Hubbard to shift inside on pass-rushing downs while Phillips develops his game at the professional level. After that, he would aim to be a full-time replacement for Lawson.

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