There are a few unalienable truths in this world. Death. Taxes. Phil Parker having a great defense. But rarely has a player embodied the heart and soul of a Phil Parker defense quite the way captain Jack Campbell has done over the last several seasons in Iowa City.
Now, that chapter comes to an end and the Cedar Falls native is headed to the next chapter of his football career: the NFL.
A Productive and Consistent Performer
Campbell had an impressive career at linebacker for the Hawkeyes, leading the team in tackles each of the last two seasons. Over his four-year tenure, Campbell showcased his skills as a productive and consistent performer. He was a tackling machine, recording 305 total tackles, including 13.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries and 5 interceptions, including one for a TD and another one as a senior that was indeed returned for a touchdown but was stolen from him by an atrocious call.
Campbell’s ability to consistently make plays and disrupt opposing offenses was evident in his statistics, which highlight his versatility and impact on the field. After missing time in the COVID-shortened season in 2020, that consistency broke through in Campbell’s final two seasons on campus.
As a junior, the former Cedar Falls basketball standout led not only the team, but the nation with 143 total tackles. That included 3.5 TFL, a sack, a pair of interceptions, including his lone TD as a Hawkeye, 6 passes defended and a forced fumble. He was named the team’s Most Valuable Defensive Player and earned Third Team All-Big Ten honors.
Campbell followed that up his senior season by again leading the team in tackles with 128, including 5.5 TFL, another sack, a forced fumble and a pair of interceptions. He was named to the First Team All-Big Ten, Big Ten Conference Linebacker of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year while being named First Team All-America and receiving the Dick Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker.
A Leader on and off the Field
Speaking to his leadership not only on the field, but also off of it, Campbell capped his senior season by not only being named the nation’s top linebacker, but also the “Academic Heisman” - the William V. Campbell Award. The achievement is a nod to Campbell’s contributions to the Hawkeyes beyond his on-field performance. He was a leader on and off the field, earning recognition for his outstanding work ethic and character.
Those contributions were evident when listening to head coach Kirk Ferentz talk about Campbell. He was the consummate Hawkeye who embodied all that Ferentz has strived for in his players during his 24 years in Iowa City.
A big part of becoming a leader of the defense is putting in the time in the film room to be able to not only get the calls right from defensive coordinator Phil Parker, but to diagnose the fronts and plays coming from opposing offenses. Campbell excelled in this role and his combination of diagnosing ability and physical talents made him one of the best linebackers in the country during his time in Iowa City.
At 6’5” and 249 pounds, Campbell has a plus frame for an inside linebacker at the next level. More impressive, however, is Campbell posted the best Athleticism Score for the position (89) for the position group at this year’s NFL Combine. His 4.65 40 time is not elite, but it’s good enough when combined with his size and power. His size, speed, and athleticism allow him to excel in coverage (particularly in zone), as well as against the run.
What’s the Holdup?
As seems to be the case over and over again with great Hawkeye defenders, the big hang up for the NFL Draft appears to be some of the same reasoning that lands “under the radar” prospects in Iowa City to begin with. While Campbell has plus size for the position and posted an elite athleticism score, his straight line speed is not among the best at the position in this class. That will prevent him from running down wide receivers in the open field, but presumably good defensive coordinators will avoid putting him in that position. Phil Parker certainly did.
Beyond the lack of long straight line speed, his explosion in and out of breaks is also a bit lacking compared to some prospects in the class. Again, that’s largely an issue in man coverage more than anything, but it does present a limitation which could hold him back on draft day.
Here’s what NFL draft analyst Lance Zerlein had to say about Campbell as a prospect:
Inside linebacker who is built for the box and plays with good overall physicality. Campbell’s size allows him to challenge blocks and stand his ground despite inconsistent hand usage at the take-on point. He scrapes and plugs his run fits with workmanlike dependability but lacks the short-area burst and reactive athleticism teams typically look for from NFL starters. He plays with above-average field awareness. He’s capable as a zone defender and in some matchups against in-line tight ends. What you see is what you get with Campbell, and teams will need to balance the consistency with the playmaking limitations in their evaluations.
Potential Landing Spot
The perceived weakness in terms of long speed and small area explosion is likely to hold Campbell out of the first round of the draft. However, his frame, production at the collegiate level and solid combine showing are going to keep him from falling far.
As things stand, the captain is projected to be drafted in the second round. As per the consensus mock draft at NFL Mock Draft Database, he’s expected to go 50th overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he’s being mocked as high as 25th overall to the New York Giants. That’s where Walter Football and Draftwire have him going.
Other potential early landing spots include 27th to the Buffalo Bills (per the LA Times, Sporting News and Fantom Sports), 26th to the Dallas Cowboys and 32nd to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Wherever he lands, Campbell is sure provide an instant impact to any locker room and any linebacking group. Look for him to become a staple of some organization for years to come.