Patriots Draft Spotlight: Jordan Phillips

The Patriots have relied on stalwart nose tackle Vince Wilfork since 2004, but he isn't going to play forever and New England needs to take steps to replace him. 6'6, 335 pound nose tackle Jordan Phillips of Nebraska may be a prime candidate to take over, especially if New England can't work with Wilfork on lowering his cap hit.

Heading into the 2014 offseason, the Patriots had a major issue on their hands with a 10.5 million dollar cap hit of Vince Wilfork, and the truth is the salary just didn't match the production. After some back and forth and Wilfork threatening to leave, the two came to an agreement and Wilfork was signed to a team friendly deal. Well, the deal was only friendly for one year because Big Vince has a cap hit of 8.5 million in '15, and it looks like we are getting ready to cross the same bridge as last summer.

This year Wilfork may not give in and the Patriots need to be prepared for that. One way to deal with it is to replace him in the draft. There are some good defensive tackles in this upcoming draft, but typically the polished guys go early, so many of the players Patriot fans may like will be long gone before New England is on the clock. One player that may be available is Oklahoma defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, a redshirt sophomore with the raw ability to become an All-Pro nose tackle.

The 6'6, 335 pound Phillips was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and he was also voted the top player in Kansas in 2010. Phillips was an Under Armour All-American and finished his senior season with 68 tackles and 8.5 sacks, which is excellent for an interior lineman. Phillips was so athletically gifted that he was also used as a tight end, picking up 17 receptions for 400 yards, four touchdown catches and two touchdown runs. His junior year of high school was very good too, piling up 40 tackles, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and he also did some damage on offense with 15 catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

When Phillips got to Oklahoma in 2011, he was redshirted because Oklahoma had plenty of depth at tackle, but in 2012 Phillips started to see the field more and made a difference immediately. Phillips played in 11 games, all off the bench, and contributed 12 total tackles, six solo and six assisted. Phillips best games came against Kansas (four tackles) and Iowa State (4 tackles). It's no surprise that his first strong game came against his home-state team Kansas, who recruited Phillips heavily but missed out.

2013 was a major disappointment for Phillips and the Sooners, and it had nothing to do with talent or effort. After just four games, Phillips season was ended due to a back injury, which was unfortunate because he was starting to come into his own. In just four games, Phillips had seven tackles (two solo, five assisted), two tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. For an interior lineman, he was very disruptive and the Sooner coaching staff got a taste of what Phillips could provide if he played a full season.

2014 was the breakout year that everyone was waiting for. Phillips started 13 of 13 games, racking up 39 tackles (20 solo, 19 assisted), seven tackles for loss, two sacks, one fumble recovery and one pass broken up. Phillips was All-Big 12 and AP Second team. He had the best game of his career in his final game at Oklahoma, racking up seven tackles vs. Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Most scouts believe that Phillips should have returned for his junior season, but after three years in Norman, Phillips believed he was ready and declared for the draft. Although he is raw and does need some good NFL coaching, he has the ability to be one of the best nose tackles in the game and the athletic ability to play in either the 3-4 or 4-3. Phillips is going to make life very easy for linebackers behind him for the next decade or so.

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