There are a few things that I look for when trying to identify breakout fantasy players. Youth, talent, and an increased role. Second year players with high draft capital usually experience an increase in playing time and production. These players have had a year to adjust to the NFL, and their teams feel more confident playing them in major roles. A player that fits this model is Miami Dolphins Edge Rusher Jaelan Phillips. A player that fits this model is Washington Football Team Linebacker Jamin Davis. This series was written in 2022 by Brandon Jackson, he is no longer contributing to Gridiron Ratings but should be considered the credited analyst for this piece.
Jaelan Phillips had a rather unique journey to the NFL. Phillips started his collegiate career at UCLA where he played his first two seasons. Phillips’ football career appeared to be over after he medically retired after his sophomore season. Phillips retired due to a myriad of injuries and most notably a concussion that ended his season. After taking a year off, Phillips returned to football and transferred to the University of Miami. Phillips had a breakout season in his first and only season at the University of Miami. Phillips registered 45 tackles, 8 sacks, and 1 interception in his final collegiate season in 2020. He also earned 2nd team All-American honors and was a finalist for the Chuck Bednarick award. After testing well during his Pro Day, the Miami Dolphins selected him in the 1st round of the NFL Draft.
Phillips, like many other rookies, had to earn playing time in his first season. Phillips played in a reserve role from weeks 1 through 4. Phillips’ highest snap rate was 59% during those weeks. Phillips’ playing time increased significantly during weeks 5 through 8 as he logged a 77% snap share or better in 3 out of those 4 weeks. However, Phillips reportedly had issues defending against the run, and he was reduced to a situational pass rusher for the remainder of his rookie season.
By The Numbers
His situational role didn’t stop him from producing as a rookie. Phillips recorded a sack in 5 straight games from weeks 9 through 13. His 15 total tackles and 7 sacks qualified him for the overall DL1 in balanced scoring IDP leagues during those weeks, according to data from myfantasyleague.com. The highlight of Phillips’ rookie season came in week 12. Phillips recorded 4 combined tackles and 3 sacks in a blowout victory against the Carolina Panthers. Phillips finished as the top scoring DL in week 12.
Phillips ended his rookie season recording 42 combined tackles and 8.5 sacks while playing on 54% of the team’s defensive snaps. The 8.5 sacks ended up being a Dolphins rookie Franchise record. Phillips also made The Professional Football Writers All Rookie Team.
Phillips had a productive rookie season, but there’s still room for improvement. At his end of season press conference, Phillips advised that he wants to play more on early downs. According to Pro Football Focus, Phillips was rated 103rd out of 112 Edge Rushers in defending against the run. He’ll need to improve on that rating if he’s going to be an every down player next season.
2022 Fantasy Outlook
After an impressive rookie season, Jaelan Phillips will be looking to ascend into one of the NFL’s elite Edge Rushers. Phillips flashed his upside during his mini breakout at the halfway point of his rookie season, but his ceiling is much higher. Phillips will be a hot commodity for fantasy football IDP gamers who play in big play formats. He will be expected to take on a larger role next season and he should break out in a major way. Draft Jaelan Phillips and dominate your IDP leagues!