Atlanta Falcons 2023 rookie review & grades: Clark Phillips III

Fourth-round pick Clark Phillips started off on the sidelines before snagging Jeff Okudah's starting spot on the outside late in the season

Indianapolis Colts v Atlanta Falcons
Indianapolis Colts v Atlanta Falcons / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages
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The consensus around cornerback Clark Phillips coming out of Utah was that he would be a first or second-round pick if he were a few inches taller. His lack of height allowed the Atlanta Falcons to grab him in the fourth round.

The selection earned a lot of praise from the media and thanks to some late-season playing time, Phillips was able to make a big impact for this defense.

Atlanta Falcons CB Clark Phillips III rookie review

All told, Clark Phillips had a successful rookie season. He showed the coaching staff (and the new coaching staff) what is capable of. He makes up for his height with tenacity and aggression.

Phillips is another solid piece in what has proven to be a fantastic 2023 draft class by Terry Fontenot.

Stats:

  • 7 games played, 414/1,141 defensive snaps (36%)
  • 53 special teams snaps (18 kick coverage, 8 kick return, 21 punt return, 6 FG/PAT block)
  • 27 tackles
  • 1 tackle for loss
  • 5 passes defended
  • 29 targets, 15 completions allowed
  • 175 yards allowed
  • 2 touchdowns allowed
  • 6 penalties, 0 accepted

Coverage stats from Pro Football Focus

The good:

Not often do you find a fourth-round rookie take a starting job from a former third-overall pick, but that is what Clark Phillips was able to do.

Phillips showed that he can be a good outside corner despite his lack of size and top-end speed. He shows rare tenacity which shows in his five passes defended.

His stats also do not represent how good he was during the majority of his snaps. Take away his week 18 performance that was poor and he only allowed just over 100 yards, 11 completions, and zero touchdowns.

The bad:

While you can exclude a game or two when looking at the stats, it doesn't change the fact that they are what they are. Make no mistake about it, he had a rough start and end to his rookie season.

Phillips took the field for the first time in week 10 against the Cardinals. He was the starting slot corner because Dee Alford was injured and he had a rough time. While he only gave up 11 yards, there was a big play that the Cardinals missed on after Phillips got torched.

In week 18, he was a liability. He gave up 67 yards on four catches allowed and two touchdowns—then again, the entire defense took a day off in the final game of the season.

Overview:

Clark Phillips had a successful rookie season in my book. Whenever a fourth-round pick earns a starting spot in year one, that is a good thing. The Falcons should feel satisfied with Phillips.

Moving forward, Phillips will compete to keep his starting spot on the outside but expect Raheem Morris and Terry Fontenot to bring in a lot of competition for him.

Ultimately, I settled on giving yet another Falcons rookie a 'B' grade.

Grade: B-

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