After taking a running back at No. 12 overall, the Detroit Lions eschewed perception of positional value by taking linebacker Jack Campbell with the 18th overall pick.
Zigging when other zag sometimes work. The Detroit Lions took running back Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12 overall, going against the grain of a broadly devalued position in the NFL. At No. 18 overall, the Lions went 2-for-2 to go against conventional first round thinking to select Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell.
Campbell won the 2022 Butkus Award, given to the country’s top linebacker. He also won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and was a First Team AP All-American after a season with 128 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss.
In 2021, Campbell posted 140 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and six pass breakups. He had a sack and at least 3.5 tackles for loss in each of his last three seasons at Iowa, with five sacks over that span (two each in 2021 and 2022).
2023 NFL Draft: Jack Campbell is a fantastic addition to the Lions linebacking corps
Campbell is big (6-foot-5, 249 pounds), athletic (top Athleticism Score among linebackers at the NFL Combine, 9.98 Relative Athletic Score) and an all-around force as a run defender, blitzer and pass defender. His 92.9 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus last season was the best among FBS linebackers.
Campbell clearly comes off as a “Dan Campbell” kind of player, and he was easy to tab as a fit for the Lions in this linebacker class.
Alex Anzalone and Malcolm Rodriguez are the Lions’ starting off-ball linebackers. But the best year of Anzalone’s career in 2022 was merely an average one compared to his position peers. Rodriguez is a long-term keeper coming off a nice rookie season, but Anzalone’s spot begs for an eventual upgrade despite his signing a three-year deal in March.
Campbell will be a backup as a rookie unless Anzalone or Rodriguez are injured. But he does give the Lions an interesting immediate depth option to use, and a potential future star to pair with Rodriguez for years to come in the future.