It’s not surprising given where they drafted him, but Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes said Jack Campbell checked every box for what they look for in a linebacker.
Right next to those who say you shouldn’t take a running back in the first round these days are those who say the same about off-ball linebackers. As we know, the Detroit Lions doubled-down to go against those sentiments with Jahmyr Gibbs and Jack Campbell in last month’s draft.
Brad Holmes had an interview on Sirius XM’s “Movin’ The Chains” with Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan recently. He talked about the team’s draft strategy.
Via Lions Wire:
"We’re trying to get football players,” Holmes told the hosts. “If you start just sticking to height, weight, speed and all this stuff and what position they play, no — who is the best football player?”"
And naturally, Holmes talked about Campbell.
"I didn’t know how truly big he was when I started looking at him on film in the fall,” Holmes admitted. “You see a big guy that can stack and shed, and you find out, ‘Oh he’s big; he’s a tackle-to-tackle guy’….But the more you look at (Campbell) in coverage and third-down stuff, and you see that he’s the highest-rated coverage linebacker."
Indeed, Campbell had Pro Football Focus’ highest coverage grade among FBS linebackers last season (92.9). To go with his size (6-foot-5, 249 pounds), athleticism (9.98 Relative Athletic Score) and production (268 total tackles over his last two seasons at Iowa).
Jack Campbell is everything the Lions are looking for in a linebacker
After calling him “complete guy” in terms of skills, Holmes finished by using the ‘e’ word about Campbell.
"His football intelligence and his passion for the game — it is as good as it gets. It’s elite in every category.”"
It’s hard not to look at Campbell and not see shades of former Lions linebacker Chris Spielman, who now works for the team and has influence on a lot of aspects of the operation. Not that he stumped for Campbell to be drafted in the first round, but if there was a general advocate to be found outside of Holmes, scouts, etc., it’s fair to assume Spielman was one.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the 19th overall pick, and they wound up taking Pitt defensive tackle Calijah Kancey. But, it appears they were ready to take Campbell if the Lions took Kancey at 18 (as was mocked in plenty of places during mock draft season, and could have happened given the Lions need at defensive tackle).
"We still had two guys that we really liked on the board, with Kancey being one of them,” Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles said afterward. “We had a shot either way Detroit picked. Then when Detroit picked the other way, they picked the linebacker, we had a chance to get Kancey, and that was pretty good.”"
These kind of “another would have taken him (insert number) of picks later if we didn’t” things are to be met with a grain of salt most of the time.
But in this case there’s actual visible evidence the Buccaneers liked Campbell, and they were surely not the only ones who did between picks No. 18 and No. 34. So maybe it wasn’t that much of a reach to take him in the top-20, with the Lions firmly in “get your guys” mode.