The 2022 Dick Butkus Award was awarded to the top linebacker in college for the year, and Iowa’s Jack Campbell answered the bell. He raked in loads of tackles, forced turnovers, and was as disruptive as you could ask for. Campbell now enters the NFL, and he’s slated to be one of the first linebackers off the board.
- College: Iowa
- Height: 6’5”
- Weight: 249 lbs.
- Age: 22 yrs. (August 20, 2000)
- Year: Senior
- Hands: 10.25”
- Arms: 31.875”
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.65
- Vertical Jump: 37.5”
- Broad Jump: 10’8”
- 3-Cone Drill: 6.74
- 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.24
- Draft Projection: Early Second Day
Campbell was a star basketball player, as well as football, during his time at Cedar Falls High School. He led the basketball team to two Iowa state titles. As a three-star, Campbell wasn’t heavily recruited but had offers from Iowa State, Minnesota, Nebraska, and FCS power North Dakota State. Campbell ultimately decided to take the 90-minute drive down I-380 to attend the University of Iowa.
After little playing time in 2019 and 2020, Campbell put the Big Ten on notice with a massive 2021 season. He collected 140 tackles, a sac, two interceptions, and a forced fumble. His 83 assisted tackles led the NCAA, and his 140 total tackles were second.
He returned to Iowa City for his senior season and had another massive year. He notched 125 tackles, a sack, two interceptions, and another forced fumble. Statistically, he was better in 2021, but he added AP All-American and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year to his 2022 accolades. Campbell also was awarded the 2022 William V. Campbell (no relation, I think) Award, the Academic Heisman.
Perfect Linebacker Size
I think back to the Frankenstein running back graphic a few years back, describing how David Montgomery was a perfect running back. The picture for linebacker would be Campbell. He’s a beast, well-built, and he’s perfect for the middle of an NFL defense. The combine solidified his athletic ability, and while not the fastest cat, Campbell is plenty fast enough to man the middle.
Ability to Process and React
Campbell lurks in the middle, and when he sees a play developing, it’s uncanny how quickly he recognizes it and then blows a play up. His instincts and reaction time are phenomenal.
Watching the play developing, Campbell slowly meanders to the side of the field – then, when it’s apparent the ball is going to the back, Campbell is there in a hurry. I love seeing this play develop and watching his discipline.
This may be my favorite play of his. Campbell knows the run is coming, allows the lineman to get the middle sealed, then sifts over to the gap. Then he closes that hole before the back gets there and drags the poor sap down by his shoulder pads for a safety.
Campbell also makes play through traffic unlike any I have seen in quite some time. He consistently takes perfect paths where he knives through defenders like a hot knife to butter.
He surprises the quarterback on this one. Campbell is in the backfield so quickly; the quarterback does all he can to get the ball away.
This is another example of how Campbell has the timing down perfectly to effortlessly slide through the linemen and get to the quarterback. It’s not only in pass rushing, as we have seen in all these plays above.
Campbell isn’t the soundest tackler, but he is incredibly sure, and ball carriers don’t break free from Campbell often. He takes good angles and plays under control.
In this play, Campbell is engaged by a lineman, and at the right time, Campbell peels off and stymies the back before he can get back to the line of scrimmage. He hits hard and can stop a ball carrier in their tracks when he needs to.
The Iowa defense is consistently one of the stoutest in the nation, and Campbell was their unquestioned leader. That means a lot, and the team followed their leader. It was a blue-collar defense that would smack you in the snout and force turnovers. Campbell is the epitome of the way the defense plays.
Lack of Range on Film
The film shows limitations in his range, and Campbell isn’t a sideline-to-sideline linebacker that the NFL favors. His combine showed the athleticism that I wasn’t quite expecting, and maybe a team in the NFL will unlock more of that part of his game. He tested better than I expected; at times, on tape, Campbell looked like his hips were stiff, and he wasn’t as fluid as he tested.
Man Coverage Skills
Campbell also isn’t going to be the type of linebacker that can shadow a back or athletic tight end. He is really solid in zone coverage, as displayed in this play below.
I love him in zone coverage quite a bit, and we see his instincts on full display here. Campbell reads the quarterback’s eyes and makes an athletic interception. I love this play so much, and I had to get it in the article. But as a man-cover option, Campbell is going to be limited.
The Wrap Up
When looking at his NFL draft options, Campbell is likely an early second-day selection. Teams may covet Trenton Simpson’s athleticism and versatility a bit more. Campbell is a bit more old-school, but he’s not a total liability in pass coverage, as long as a team doesn’t stick him in man often on third downs.
For IDP, Campbell is my LB1 – he’s going to get a boatload of tackles every year, along with big plays for an extra bonus. I could see Campbell getting LB1 numbers quickly with the right team. I want to see him in a landing spot that isn’t going to get cute with him and will let him play to his strengths.
Campbell is a fun one to watch, and I highly recommend watching more films on him. He’s a good mix of an old-school middle linebacker with a splash of the athleticism we love to see in three-down linebackers these days. Campbell is going to be a fun one at the next level, and I think he’s got a high ceiling and a high floor as well.
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