We’re living in a fun age of football. Not only are some of our favorite players breaking records left and right, we’re seeing entertaining games on a weekly basis from all across the league. Much of that can be attributed to the fact that more points are being scored. Don’t come in here with that whole “pitcher’s duels are the best, most pure game to watch.” I don’t see the MLB All-Star weekend hosting a pitching derby, do you? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
We want home runs; we want the home run derby; we want points.
Though the rules of the NFL have changed over the years, the most important rule of “the team with the most points wins the game” is still going strong. To achieve such a goal, offensive coordinators, head coaches and general managers are trying to come up with top-to-bottom plans on how to do it better than any team out there — to stay ahead of the curve. Often that has to do with looking to the next crop of future NFL players and seeing which prospects at the college level have skillsets that will not only be translatable to the current age of the game, but also coveted in ways that don’t come around often.
One potential prospect who could fit that mold in the 2019 NFL Draft class is Ohio State’s Parris Campbell. Campbell, a 6-foot, 208-pound senior, is a hybrid player for the Buckeyes who can do things as a receiver and as a running back. He does play mostly receiver, as his career 1,600 receiving yards and 14 receiving touchdowns indicate, but his 9.1 career yards-per-carry average also note that he can be a guy you use next to the quarterback, too.
As I watched Campbell’s tape — mainly his usage — I couldn’t help but be reminded of a few other players in the NFL that have his mold that are already having success.
Campbell is a yards after catch stud. For the past few years, the Buckeyes’ offense has been built around recruiting better athletes than anyone in the Big Ten, keeping things simple and getting the ball out quick to allow those athletes to do the work.
As shown above, Campbell, who does a lot of good work in the slot, at his size, can take small passes and turn them into big gains.
Now, let’s get one thing straight. I am going to have some clips in here of some of the top playmakers in the NFL. I am not trying to say that Campbell is a combination of all of these guys or even say that they are his NFL comp. What I am trying to do is visualize usage.
Take a look at the Campbell play again above and then look at the play under it by Saints running back Alvin Kamara. The same thought process went into the design of each play. Both players used quickness to win from the slot, and then had the long speed to make something of it once the ball got in their hands.
This is the kind of stuff where Campbell can be used like Kamara is. Maybe not to his level, but of similar design. Making pass plays almost like run plays with higher potential for yards.
Speed to the sideline is vital for any player who is being used as what you would call an “x-factor” in the slot or as a “gadget” player who goes both inside and out.
When you can run plays like the one above, they’re almost as “safe” as a run play with the potential yards after the catch being much higher because the ball is away from traffic in the box/line of scrimmage. You’re also forcing defenders to often make tackles in the open field with little help.
This is the same idea, as shown above, in how the Panthers use running back Christian McCaffrey in short yardage situations.
McCaffrey was lined up in a closer set with the ball on the short side of the field, which was somewhat different than Campbell’s play, however, the goal there was to beat the player guarding him to space at the sideline. In McCaffrey’s case, that was in the end zone, so there wasn’t yards to be had after the catch.
When you have players with quickness on the inside, that allows you to have a potential mismatch with a linebacker or safety guarding them. This can also be an emphasis of advantage with a player like Campbell.
I think the most easily translatable skillset for Campbell’s is how effective he can be as a slot player on crosser and drag routes over the middle. This is a route that can be successful against both man and zone coverages, and presents a ton of mismatch potential with slower players being forced to guard players like Campbell, as shown above.
The Kansas City Chiefs like to use Tyreek Hill in similar fashion.
Now, Hill does it better than anyone in the NFL because he’s faster than everyone in the NFL, so Campbell certainly won’t be as successful, in that regard. But, again, showing usage of the type of player Campbell is and how you can get creative with mismatches and route combinations that not only creates space but also get the ball out of your quarterback’s hand quicker is something you can observe Campbell do and think it can work at the next level.
The final point of impact I see from Campbell is the creativity of him out of the backfield on toss plays and all his potential success on reverses and handoffs.
Campbell doesn’t have many traditional sets as a running back, but Ohio State has given him some chances to make a difference as a runner on plays like the one above.
With such success, I’m reminded of how Atlanta used wide receiver Taylor Gabriel.
This goes back to the whole “speed to the sideline” thing, but it’s just another way to use it. In this kind of design, you’re not even factoring in the time it takes to snap the the shotgun and throw the ball. Plus you’re allowing your speed player to already be in motion against defenders that are left reacting and trying to catch up. When you have players like Gabriel, you can do that with nice success. Campbell has the mold to be that guy, too. He certainly has been at Ohio State.
Those are a few examples of how I can watch Parris Campbell on Saurdays and see a path for success for him on Sundays. Now, the Combine is going to be big for Campbell. I felt like he was more explosive in 2017 than he was in 2018, even though his usage was higher in 2018, which yielded better stats. In order for him to be successful in the NFL in the ways we pointed out above, he has to be fast enough. He doesn’t have to be as fast as say Hill is, but he has to be in the upper tier of athletes in the league.
If he’s not, he could fade into the depths of a roster as just another guy.
If he is — and it’s reported that he does have high-4.3 speed — he has the mold of the next NFL x-factor.