He’s fast, he’s strong, but most of all he’s the biggest steal of the Falcons 2016 draft class.
In the 2016 draft, the Falcons shocked fans with the fairly controversial pick of Safety Keanu Neal, out of Florida. After that, Atlanta chose Deion Jones in the second-round, and Austin Hooper in the third-round. However it is the Falcons fourth-round pick that is creating a buzz in Atlanta. With the 115th pick, the Falcons drafted linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, out of Minnesota. With speculation growing over Campbell’s potential game time this season, here are four reasons why Falcons fans should be excited about the rookie linebacker.
Although Campbell is a large outside-linebacker standing at 6’4 and weighing 232 pounds, he have a pair of wheels on him. At the scouting combine, Campbell he ran a 4.58 40 yard dash (per ESPN.com) which ranked him third out of all linebackers at the 2016 combine. This is a great time for a player his size, However, what is more impressive is how fast he gets to the ball. Against the Washington Redskins in the Falcons first 2016 preseason game, Campbell had 3 solo tackles and 1 assisted tackle. With all of these tackles, Campbell demonstrated excellent closing speed in both pass and run defense. This closing speed has been something the Falcons line backing corps have lacked for a long time.
Campbell’s coverage ability is one of his most undervalued skills. Campbell has the potential to cover Tight Ends and Wider Receivers. Obviously Campbell would struggle against #1 receivers, but he may fare better against bigger receivers in #2 and #3 roles. From watching his college tape, especially against San Jose State, he shows that he can easily keep up with some wide outs. Campbell’s coverage ability should create favorable matchups for the Falcons defense. The Falcons have been terrible defending against Tight Ends in recent years and Campbell will hopefully stop this trend. With the Falcons talented cornerbacks, Campbell may be matched up one-on-one against tight ends. Fortunately, the combination of his athleticism and coverage ability will mean these matchup are favorable ones for Atlanta.
Another impressive feature of Campbell’s game is his open-field tackling. Campbell is outstanding at chasing down running backs and wide outs in the open field and securing tackles, as he showed throughout his college career. Now, Campbell did miss a lot of tackles at Minnesota. But looking at his film overall, he showed the ability to make big stops by himself in the middle of the field.Hes raw, but if he can focus his talent and find some consistency,then he’ll be a nightmare for Offensive Coordinators
Before the draft and for a short time afterwards, Campbell’s instincts have been a big question mark. In his senior year at Minnesota, he showed that he often times didn’t have a nose for the ball and that he couldn’t quite dissect a play. For an inside linebacker, this is a major flaw and turns most teams away. However, the Falcons obviously saw something in the young man. In training camp, Campbell has worked hard and greatly improved his understanding of offenses and this was on show against the Redskins. Campbell was breaking on the ball and this was often times before the QB started their throwing motion. He was flying around the field, filling holes, breaking up passes and laying hits on his opponents. Realistically, Campbell is definitely a work in progress. Football instincts are often naturally possessed and hard to be taught, but Campbell is definitely showing that he’s a fast learner.
Overall, Campbell has been silencing his critics over the past 3 weeks. He is showing that he deserved to be drafted higher and hinting to the Falcons that he can thrive in the NFL. If training camp and his first NFL preseason games are any indication of his potential, then De’Vondre Campbell may be a key player for this new-look Falcons defense for years to come.