Why Lions’ first-round selection makes sense


Skeptics questioned the Lions when they selected Iowa’s Jack Campbell in the first round of the NFL Draft. But could the pick be savvy instead?

ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg recently connected with college football coaches for their thoughts on players selected in the NFL Draft. Most spoke anonymously.

An unnamed Big Ten coach called Campbell “an absolute stud.”

“For an inside ‘backer in today’s game, it’s rare to have one that tall and have this combination of speed,” an unnamed Big Ten coach told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg. “He’s built like a linebacker in the ’80s.”

Per The Gazette, Detroit GM Brad Holmes said Campbell was the top player on the Lions’ board when they selected him with the 18th overall pick.  “It was actually by a good margin,” he said.

Others, however, believe Detroit whiffed.
“Campbell is a quality linebacker when he’s coming downhill in the box, but his ability to be an impact player in coverage and in space downfield is a major question mark,” wrote Yahoo Sports’ Charles McDonald. “That’s not the profile of a first-round linebacker.”
Per NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, Campbell was a projected second-round pick, albeit the top-rated LB in the 2023 class.
In 2022, Campbell won the Butkus Award, given to the best LB in the country, and earned first-team All-American honors.
This pick seems to make sense. At 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds, Campbell has the prototypical NFL LB size. Despite a slow 40-yard dash (4.65 seconds), his lateral quickness atones for a lack of straight-line speed. During the combine, he posted the best 20-yard shuttle time (4.24 seconds) for LBs.

Detroit’s defense allowed the most yards in the league last season (6,670). A talented, young linebacking corps that includes Campbell and Malcolm Rodriguez — who made the 2022 All-Rookie team — should put Detroit in position to win its first division title since 1993.

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