The following analysis does not reflect the opinions of the Washington Commanders unless specified in a direct quote.
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The Washington Commanders are inching closer to the NFL Draft, and I have some thoughts on the players who could be available to them with the No. 16 overall pick.
Over the next few weeks, I will be breaking down some prospect that have stood out to me in my analysis of the Commanders' positions of need. Next up is Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell.
Sometimes, there are things that take you back to a better, simpler time, like crisp lines of a black and white film or the silky-smooth lyricism of a 90s west coast rapper. Jack Campbell is that player for me in this year's draft. A man large of stature and physical in mindset, his play harkens back to a time where athletes like Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher breathed fire in the center of the defense. It was an era where linebackers knew what it meant to strike pulling offensive guard and buckle a fullback.
Jack Campbell is a hard nose archetype linebacker. However, just like films have added color and mumble rappers have taken over, linebackers have changed. The Urlacher's and Lewis's have been replaced by smaller, faster players like Fred Warner and Shaquille Lenard.
The change makes sense; teams are in three wide receiver sets more than ever. Play action-heavy offenses exploit the middle of the field, specifically attacking linebackers.
The position has changed. A middle linebacker's value no longer comes from how they fit the run, but how they cover the pass. With offenses trying to exploit the middle of the defense more than ever, coverage skills are at a premium for the position.
With the league trending in this direction, is there space for a 6-foot-5, 250-pound linebacker, or will Campbell and others like him go the way of the dinosaur? The short answer is that Campbell is the last of a dying breed and an outlier in today's NFL.
However, despite his traditional approach, I think he can succeed. At the combine, Campbell showed a good athletic profile running a 4.65 40, 37.5-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot 9 broad jump.
While 4.65 is a good time for a man of his size, it is near threshold for the position. This, coupled with hip tightness, still has people questioning his athleticism and wondering if he can fulfill the space requirements for the position.
Campbell has something that others in the class to not: true linebacker instincts. Whether through innate feel or film study, Campbell finds himself in the right place more times than not, reading his keys in the run game and filling zones in the pass game.
This "feel," coupled with his tremendous physicality, makes me believe that Campbell can be a solid starter in most defenses. However, I believe he would be especially suited for a predominately zone team like Washington. Campbell's lack of elite speed means that he would be ill-fitted for a man heavy scheme. Zone, specifically cover three match, would allow him to use his intelligence to match concepts and potentially undercut routes hiding one of the weaker elements of his game.
However, where I think he could truly shine is fitting the run. For the last couple of years, coach Ron Rivera has emphasized linebackers peeling double teams off the defensive line. Campbell can do that at a high level and has the violence in his body to shed blocks and make plays, something that took Jamin Davis a couple of years to get comfortable with.
While there is some risk associated with Campbell, I would like to think there is a place for a place for a player who attacks the game the way he does. I can't wait to see where he lands.
Luke Kuechly mixed with Sam Huff
- Deceptively athletic
- Top-level instincts for the position
- Command of the defense
- Lack of top tier athleticism
- Questions about his ability to play in space
- Can he match up verse's topflight athletes?