When the Colts selected wide receiver Parris Campbell in the second round, it seemed like a natural fit with the offense. By now, you’ve likely seen Reich’s reaction to the pick as shown on the Colts fantastic series, “With the Next Pick.” This was clearly a player they coveted, and one for whom Reich has a plan in mind.
What you might have also been thinking about was the last time that the Colts took a blazing fast wide receiver. It is tough to completely let go of the selection of Phillip Dorsett in the 2015 draft. He was a stupidly fast receiver who gave us hope of a second T.Y. Hilton and the idea of that got us carried away with how incredible that might be, even as we lamented the defensive talent that was left on the board.
You know how things went from there. Dorsett failed to live up to the hype, proving to be a bit of a one-trick pony, and never establishing himself as much beyond a guy who floated on the periphery of the team. Not what you are looking for in a first round pick, certainly.
So, given that information, it would be understandable if you viewed Parris Campbell through a very cynical lens. How is Campbell going to work out any better than Dorsett did? In fact, how do these players differ at all?
That’s what I wanted to dig into a little bit. These guys aren’t the same, and I want to help ease your mind a bit about Campbell’s potential, so let’s get right to it.
The most noticeable difference between Dorsett and Campbell comes in the form of their significant size difference. Dorsett weighed in at 185lbs and stood 5’9” at his pro day. By comparison, Campbell stands 6’0” and weighed in at 205lbs. Dorsett’s arms measured 30 1⁄4 inches by comparison to Campbells which are 32 1⁄4 . In terms of sheer size difference, this is massive.
Dorsett’s smaller stature impacted his ability to win at the catch point, as well as making it harder to beat press coverage or deal with physical corners. He often struggled to get open at all, got bullied at the line, and never developed the polished route running that would have helped negate his size disadvantage, the way T.Y. Hilton has done.
Campbell’s larger size should aid him in some of the areas that caused Dorsett to struggle. His stature should keep him on a more equal footing with defensive backs when going for contested catches, and he should be less susceptible to being knocked around by physical cornerbacks than was Dorsett.
Phillip Dorsett was certainly a fast player-- that much is not in doubt. However, it is interesting to note that despite being larger across the board, Campbell actually had the better 40-time. Dorsett clocked in at 4.33 at the combine, while Campbell clocked a 4.31.
In terms of quickness, Campbell clocked a 4.03 20-yard shuttle, which is an excellent indicator that straight line speed is only a part of what makes him an exciting prospect. By comparison, Phillip Dorsett clocked a 4.11. Again, despite being the bigger guy, Campbell has the faster time in terms of short area quickness.
Speed isn’t the end all, be all. If it was, Dorsett would have been a fine player. It is a trait Chris Ballard looked heavily for in this draft, but it is still just part of what makes a player capable of being great.
One of the areas Dorsett never managed to make any impact was as a player who could make something happen with the ball in his hands. He was billed coming out as a guy who could take the top off of a defense, and that was the area he was most effective. He was never asked to do a lot beyond running deep burners, and he never had the slippery way about him that T.Y. does, finding his way behind coverage seemingly unnoticed.
Campbell, on the other hand has made his hay on the underneath routes and crossers, using his excellent acceleration and contact balance to rack up tons of yards after the catch and ending getting himself up stuck with the label of “gadget” player. While both players had limited route trees coming out and largely were hampered by their college usage, Dorsett’s skills didn’t match up with the kinds of things the Colts needed most from a receiver. Worse still, he wasn’t able to use those skills that were billed as his strong points nearly as effectively as the team had hoped.
The Colts already have a player in Hilton who can take the top off a defense. They also have a solid big slot in the form of Devin Funchess. What they needed was a guy who can stretch the field sideline to sideline with his speed and explosiveness, and provide a home run threat with the ball in his hands. That is what Campbell brings. The Colts will no doubt attempt to develop him into a player who can be as dangerous down the sideline as he is across the middle, but he won’t be expected to do that from day one.
If you can’t remember how Phillip Dorsett fared as a return man, you can be forgiven. He didn’t do much of it. In his time with the Colts, despite his incredible speed, he managed to amass just 13 yards on kick and punt return duty. If you remembered anything about his return game, it is likely that in his debut against the Bills, he muffed two punts, the second of which was recovered by the Bills and resulted in a score.
This is an area where Campbell should find some traction. In his junior year, the last year he had kick return duties, he averaged 36.8 yard per return. It is no surprise when you watch his tape. Again, crediting his contact balance and vision in conjunction with his speed, it comes as little surprise that he would excel here.
Because of Dorsett’s struggles to make an impact on special teams, as well as the heightened expectation of being a first round pick, this was a huge weakness. Even if Campbell is limited in his usage on the offense for a while, he should have plenty of opportunity to be a difference maker on special teams.
Front Office and Coaching Staff
Probably the biggest difference between the two players comes in terms of the coaching. When Dorsett was drafted, it felt as though Grigson did so as a flex move to use in negotiations with T.Y. Hilton. We don’t know if the team had a better plan for him than this, or how involved the coaching staff was in the selection process, but given the toxic nature of things and all we know now, that seems unlikely.
This front office and coaching staff are far different. We have seen first-hand that this group was on the same page in terms of Campbell. Ballard was picking a guy for whom Frank Reich and he had already discussed a use. This was a guy they liked, and who they felt adds character and dynamic ability to the team. Scheme fit and having a plan for a player aren’t everything, the player still has to perform well and work hard. However, getting the right player for the right system counts for a lot.
It seems like Phillip Dorsett was a player selected because he was flashy, and because he gave Ryan Grigson leverage at the table with T.Y. Hilton in contract discussions. The GM did not have great chemistry with his coaching staff, and they did not have a cohesive plan for how to maximize his talents, or if they did, it was very poorly executed. The expectations were sky-high for Dorsett, and his smaller frame and inability to develop as a route runner or contribute on special teams critically hampered his progress.
By comparison, Campbell is a bigger, faster, and better-suited player to what the Colts need now. Frank Reich was intimately involved in the process of zeroing in on him as an option, and Ballard has made sure they get a guy who is equal parts speed and substance. While it is ultimately up to Campbell to prove he has what it takes to be more, I think there is more than enough reason to believe we aren’t getting another Phillip Dorsett in Indy.