The 2019 NFL Draft has finally concluded and the Colts have added 10 new players to their roster. The main emphasis was on the defensive side of the ball, where Chris Ballard drafted seven new players, almost all of them being elite athletes. The team got better, younger, and faster this weekend, and we will be diving into the film on just about all of them to see what they bring to the team.
The next player who we are going to discuss is talented playmaker Parris Campbell. Campbell was the 59th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft as a receiver out of Ohio State. He is a bit raw as an overall receiver, but he has the skillset and upside to potentially be an elite receiver in the NFL. Today we are going to look at his strengths, along with how he fits in the Colts’ high-powered offense.
6’0”, 205 pounds
40 Time: 4.31 seconds / Bench Reps: 11 Reps / Vertical Jump: 40 inches / Broad Jump: 135 inches / 20 Yard Shuttle: 4.03 seconds
143 catches for 1,768 yards with 12.4 yards per catch and 15 touchdowns in his four year career.
The number one thing that comes to mind when watching Campbell is that 4.31 40 time and just his insane speed on the field. He is an absolute burner who can turn on the jets at any moment and take a short pass to the house. He is raw down the field but I’m assuming the Colts have envisioned expanding his route tree and using him more down the field with this speed and athleticism.
Here is a glimpse of what that speed can be like down the field. He quickly eats up the cushion between himself and the off defender and pushes vertically. He then sidesteps the corner as he tries to make contact and gains a few steps over the top. He is able to get to the corner before the overhead safety can reach the play, and he makes a nice catch over his shoulder for the score. This is what he could potentially be if he is used down the field more in the NFL. He could be a similar player to T.Y Hilton if he can consistently work downfield like this.
This play, though, is how Campbell currently projects to the NFL. Every time he touches the ball, there is a chance he is going to score. Here, he is just running a simple drag route and he is able to catch the ball out in front of him in space. He then gets a nice block on the edge that springs him for a big run after catch. Look at how easily he pulls away from the defenders even when they have the angle on him. He is pure speed, and it is tough to bring down a player like that.
Yards After Contact
Speed is one thing, but to truly create after the catch, a player needs to have great contact balance and be able to create after contact. Campbell is basically like a running back in this regard, as he fights through contact well and avoids arm tackles. He is basically like an extra running back on the field with 4.3 speed.
This first clip shows his balance really well. He catches the screen pass, then gets up field quickly. He tries to make a defender miss but is wrapped up around the legs. He is able to fight through that contact, though, and work up field for extra yards on the play. Speed is great, and can make a lot of things happen but the ability to break tackles in the open field is what makes Campbell a true weapon on offense.
It’s not just on screen passes that Campbell makes defenders miss. Here, he catches a quick out and has a cornerback racing downhill towards him. He is able to easily sidestep the defender and then turn up field for the first down. This ability to combine his speed with his elusiveness in the open field creates a player who can be a safety blanket for Andrew Luck, but also be a player who can make things happen and get first downs when needed.
Screen Game Upside
Frank Reich and the Colts love their screen passes, even if it annoys their fans at times. The Colts called a ton of screen plays in 2018 and, with the addition of Campbell to this offense, I’d expect more of the same going into 2019. Chester Rogers was decent last year on these designed screen plays, but he is nowhere near the athlete that Campbell is. With Campbell added to these plays, these simple quick hitters could turn into fast scores.
This first clip shows how quickly he can turn these plays into big gains. He gets the quick pass on the perimeter and follows his block to the outside. He turns up field and nearly has his progress stopped by the cornerback. Instead, Campbell is able to make the defender miss, and turn on the jets for a huge gain. His ability to turn these plays into big gains is so vital for an offense and adds another dimension to the team.
Here is another screen play with a slightly different design to it. Campbell takes the pass with a few blockers in front. Last year, Chester Rogers likely takes this right into the back of his blockers for a 6-7 yard gain. Campbell is different, though. He slides out of the jumbled mess of blockers and breaks into the open field for a huge gain. He turns this simple screen into a big gain. This is likely what Coach Reich saw on film that got him the most excited for this pick.
How He Fits the Colts
This pick is great, on paper, and when looking at how Campbell fits into the offense, it is even better. The biggest things the Colts needed out of their receiving core this offseason was to get faster, and to get players who can create after the catch. Both of those areas are where Campbell excels, as I have illustrated above. The areas that I see Coach Reich really using him in, though, are wide receiver screens (again, illustrated above), wide receiver reverses, rub routes, and routes through traffic.
Let’s start with the reverse plays from wide receivers. The Colts tried these plays on multiple occasions with Zach Pascal, Chester Rogers, and even Nyheim Hines from out at the receiver position. They rarely worked, though, as none of these players really had the skill or vision to make anything out of these plays. Here’s an example of a failed reverse play where Pascal was sucked up for no gain. He was unable to make a defender miss in open field.
Now compare that play with this play from Campbell. He does have more room to work with, and is going against lesser competition, but notice the field vision, and ability to knife through the defense for the big gain. Game changing ability.
Last thing we are going to look at, here, is Frank Reich’s ability to scheme players open with rub routes and legal pick plays. Reich called a lot of plays like this in order to get his playmakers the ball in space and allow them to create after the catch. Unfortunately, outside of TY Hilton, there weren’t too many players who could take full advantage of these plays. Here is an example of Reich scheming up a natural pick for a touchdown against the Redskins.
With his shiny new weapon, Reich can draw up these plays in the middle of the field and create big yards after catch opportunities for Campbell. Look at how he turns this rub route here into a big touchdown. His ability after the catch on these rub routes makes him a nightmare for opposing defenses and a treat for the offense.
Everybody is excited for Parris Campbell in this Colts’ offense, and it's easy to see why. He is an explosive game-wrecker who can break off a big play at any time. For a team that really lacked that (outside of TY Hilton) last year, Campbell’s presence on the team should open up so many opportunities for other players.
Campbell is not a perfect player, and there is a reason why he fell to the second round. He struggles to catch passes that are off-target, he struggles with press, and he is not a natural route runner right now. Despite those flaws though, the most important part of ths pick is that the Colts obviously have a plan and have a role for him. They will use him in a role that really maximizes his abilities and skillset.
If Campbell can develop his game and polish his skill set, he could be just as good as Hilton in the NFL. The talent and potential are both there. If not? The Colts still added a talented role player who can excel in what he is asked to do. That is the definition of a good draft pick. A player with potential, who, at a bare minimum, still has a clear and defined role on the team. I personally am really excited for what this creative offense draws up for their new weapon in 2019.