There were 19 defensive backs selected ahead of Clark Phillips III before he was chosen in the fourth round by the Atlanta Falcons with the 113th pick Saturday during the third day of the NFL draft.
Talk about motivation.
“If I know Clark, it’s going to be embedded in his brain like Tom Brady,” Frank Mazzotta, Phillips’ coach at La Habra High, said. “He’s going to be angry and play with a chip on his shoulder and work so hard.”
Phillips was an All-American cornerback in 2022 at Utah and a first-team All-Pac-12 Conference choice. He had nine career college interceptions, including four returned for touchdowns. He has always been a playmaker, having returned three interceptions for touchdowns in a game during his sophomore season in high school.
He was measured at 5 feet 9 at the NFL combine and ran the 40 in 4.51 seconds, two issues that probably led to being a fourth-round draft pick.
“It’s always going to be size,” Mazzotta said. “It’s the world we live in. If you’re not going to be big, you have to be a blur. There’s playing football fast and running 40 fast. There’s a lot of people who look great in shorts. He plays all his 40-yard speed. You can’t measure how his brain processes. He’s always doing something.”
Known for his aggressiveness and fearless play, Phillips projects as a nickelback for the Falcons.
UCLA offensive lineman Jon Gaines also went in the fourth round at No. 122 to the Arizona Cardinals. He can play guard, tackle and center, was durable and will try to aid a line that struggled to protect quarterback Kyler Murray.
Two more UCLA players went in the fifth round, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson to the Cleveland Browns at No. 140 and offensive lineman Atonio Mafi to the New England Patriots at No. 144.
Mafi completed a massive transformation in which he switched positions and dropped nearly 80 pounds.
Straining the scale at 411 pounds upon his arrival at UCLA in 2018, the 6-foot-3 Mafi commenced a slim down that led to him recently reaching the best shape of his football career at 338 pounds. He also switched positions before the 2020 season, going from defensive line to guard in a move that made him one of the best run blockers in the Pac-12.
Easing concerns about his lateral quickness and ability to block on passing downs, Mafi impressed the Patriots when they flew him in to meet with team personnel.
In the fifth round, safety Daniel Scott from La Cañada Flintridge St. Francis and California was taken by the Indianapolis Colts at No. 158. He ran a 4.45-second 40-yard time at the NFL combine, is 24 years old, and has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a graduate certificate in business administration. He was a three-sport athlete at St. Francis, including serving as captain of the basketball and football teams, and has a 39½-inch vertical leap.
In the sixth round, former Corona Centennial and Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee went to the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 188. It’s a chance to earn backup duties behind Jalen Hurts. McKee took a two-year Mormon mission before arriving at Stanford in 2020. He stands 6-6, is married and is one of the best quarterbacks to have played for coach Matt Logan at Centennial.
Center Jarrett Patterson from Mission Viejo and Notre Dame went to the Houston Texans at No. 201. He was a four-year starter for the Fighting Irish. Injured USC offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees was taken in the seventh round at No. 229 by the Baltimore Ravens. He’s recovering from anterior cruciate ligament surgery. Former Long Beach Poly and Oregon State cornerback Alex Austin was chosen by the Buffalo Bills at No. 252.
Staff writer Ben Bolch contributed to this report.