The Buffalo Bills addressed yet another need in the NFL Draft Friday night by using their third-round pick on former Stanford defensive tackle Harrison Phillips.
Phillips gives the Bills some needed youthful depth behind Kyle Williams, who turns 35 in June and is entering his 13th NFL season. He has also been favorably compared to Williams and is looking forward to learning from him, although that's something Phillips humbly rejects.
"I couldn't ever accept that term, to be compared to someone as fantastic as Kyle Williams," Phillips said during a conference call with reporters. "I think that his career is one that's going to go down in the history books and so, to be able to come in and try to get under his wing and try to learn some of the things that he's been able to do and be successful with, I'm so, so excited to do that. And I know the whole defensive front has a wealth of knowledge, that if I can just try to pick all their brains, I hope I can contribute."
After trading up from the 12th to seventh overall pick to grab Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen and the 22nd to 16th choice to grab Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds Friday night, the Bills stuck to their need-based drafting in making Phillips the 96th overall selection.
The 6-foot-3, 307-pound Phillips was credited with 103 tackles last season, including 17 for loss and 7.5 sacks. For his four seasons at Stanford, he had 158 tackles, 28.5 for loss and 16 sacks. He also forced two fumbles and recovered two, those coming last year.
A major factor in the Bills is Phillips' background as a former standout high school wrestler. Coach Sean McDermott was also a former standout wrestler in high school. Phillips is from Omaha, Nebraska, near where McDermott is from.
"The wrestling background certainly is an added benefit," McDermott said. "It's an important part of playing good football, in terms of leverage and everything and mental toughness. That goes along with the sport. I know where he's from in Nebraska. It's an area that I spent some time in as well, growing up in that area. We know what we're getting.
"Extremely powerful. He'll go right into that room and compete. In terms of our depth, that's big for us."
Phillips, who had a career-high 13 tackles in the 2017 Pac-12 championship game against USC, is known for his all-out effort on every snap and outstanding versatility. He has the size and athleticism to play five-technique tackle or nose tackle.
"He’s super smart, scored very high on the Wonderlic (test) and you see it when you talk to him," General Manager Brandon Beane said. "He’s versatile ... he’s hungry."
Phillips said he was choked up and "oozing with excitement" when the Bills called to inform him they had selected him.
"I know that the coaching staff is fantastic and, so, I feel like I can come in with all my tools and do exactly what they tell me to do and the way that they tell me to do it," Phillips said. "The guys that they have on that defensive line, working with Kyle Williams, working with (fellow Stanford alum) Trent Murphy coming in, these are pass-rush specialists who've proved that they can disrupt the quarterback. So I'm really anticipating getting in there, working under this coaching staff, and showing that flash.
"The Stanford defense didn't allow me to go upfield; I had to play within the defense and I did that to the best of my ability, but now in a new defense, I'm going to plug in and try to play whatever they want me to do, however they want me to do it."