The Lions' final pick of the 2008 NFL Draft generated the most publicity of any selection on day two. Why? Well, Detroit drafted Army safety/linebacker Caleb Campbell. The fact that he went to Army is why he has received so much attention from the media as a new policy will allow him to play in the NFL. Normally, a player from Army would have to serve before eventually coming back to possibly play in the NFL. Thanks to the new policy, though, Campbell can play immediately and doesn't have to go over to Iraq as long as he is on a team. He still will be in the Army, but will serve the United States at home.
With so much attention focused on the off the field stories involving Campbell, his talent has really been overlooked. Campbell was primarily a safety at Army, but on the Lions it is expected that he will play linebacker. It will take some bulking up to get the size required to be a linebacker, but that isn't a huge concern at this point. The transition to linebacker won't be easy, but I'm sure Campbell won't have a lot of problems.
Here are some positives and negatives of Campbell's game:
Strengths: Has good range and can cover the deep half of the field when stays disciplined. Physical, has excellent upper body strength and can reroute receivers. While didn't intercept a pass last year, has big hands, catches the ball well and has shown big-play ability in coverage in the past. Takes adequate pursuit angles and is a sideline-to-sideline run defender. Has excellent size and can line up in the box. Wraps up upon contact and is a reliable open field tackler that flashes the ability to deliver the big hit and forced three fumbles last year Plays with a good motor and can cover kicks. Has excellent experience, vocal and helps get teammates lined up right.
Weaknesses: Takes too long to change directions and is going to have problems matching up with slot receivers in man coverage. Stiff in the hips, faster than quick so struggles to recover when gets caught in a trail position and is going to have problems turning and running with receivers. Lacks ideal awareness in zone coverage, too quick to jump crossing routes and can let receivers get behind him when asked to cover the deep half of the field. Tall enough to compete for jump balls but doesn't have long arms and isn't a great leaper. Doesn't use hands well enough and can take too long to shed blocks when reached by an offensive lineman. Doesn't protect legs and struggles to get over cut blocks. Sustained a season-ending knee injury in 2006, appeared hesitant at times last year and durability is a concern.
POSITIVES: Nice-sized, physical safety best defending the run. Quickly diagnoses the action, takes good angles to the play and explosive at point. Displays a straight-line burst of speed and wraps up tackling.
NEGATIVES: Slow moving in reverse, struggles transitioning to run with the opponent in coverage and not quick changing direction. Possesses marginal ball skills.
Outstanding size and bulk...A reliable tackler who can deliver the big hit...Physical and aggressive...Does an excellent job against the run...Has good instincts...Very strong...Versatile...A hard worker...Team leader with elite intangibles...Productive.
Average athleticism...Lacks fluid hips to transition...Poor change of direction..Does not play as fast as he times..Might be a bit of a 'tweener...Range is limited and he struggles to match up in coverage..May have some health and durability concerns.
Interview with Campbell:
For right now, this is great PR for the Lions. They drafted someone from the Army that is a great guy and has football skills as well. With the new Army policy, Campbell is the first football player to be able to make it in the NFL right after college, and the media is eating it up. Although all of that is great, the Lions could suffer from bad PR should Campbell get cut. He does have a chance to make the team, but with a good amount of depth already at the linebacker position, I think it'll be tough for him to avoid getting cut. I hope for his and the Lions' sake that Campbell does make the team, but it'll definitely be one of the storylines to watch toward the end of training camp.