Well by now I’m sure you’ve all heard about the next great left tackle, Bruce Campbell. Fresh off his 4.85 forty-yard dash and 38 reps on the bench press, some have gone so far as to say he’s the most impressive physical specimen they’ve ever seen.
We all thought Tim Tebow was going to be the most divisive prospect in this year’s draft, but it looks like that title may go to Campbell. At this point scouts either love him or hate. Depending on who you talk to he’s either the next Orlando Pace or the next Trezelle Jenkins.
In reality he’s probably somewhere in between, but I have to bet I’d lean towards Jenkins.
The issue I have with Campbell really isn’t with Campbell himself. Its with the media that heaps on the praise for meaningless workout numbers and with the team that will inevitably draft him far too high. Nothing in Campbell’s collegiate career says that he should be a 1st round pick. Despite the athleticism, he was a below-average left tackle at Maryland this past season. He struggles with basic assignments, he rarely finishes off his blocks and he’ll occasionally completely whiff on an attempt.
That said, there’s no denying his natural ability. His size and athleticism make him an ideal candidate to play left tackle in the pros. If he is placed in the right situation where he can sit and learn from NFL coaches and veterans he could certainly develop into one of the better linemen in the game. The problem is, Campbell will likely be selected in the 1st round where he’ll be expected to start from day one. Unlike quarterbacks and receivers, the expectation is that offensive tackles should transition seamlessly to the pros, as recent draftees Joe Thomas, Jake Long and Ryan Clady have done.
When players are thrown into the mix from day one, they either sink or swim. There’s no middle ground. A polished collegiate lineman can often learn more by playing than from watching, its just the nature of the position. But those with basic fundamental flaws like Campbell only have those issues reinforced by attempting to keep up with the pace of the NFL game.
A fair comparison to make here is with Tim Tebow. Like Tebow, Campbell has incredible physical tools. But he has some bad habits, not unlike Tebow’s throwing motion. If Tebow were thrown into a starting role from day one it would be next to impossible to fix the throwing motion while trying to survive on the field every Sunday. Breaking bad habits often requires taking a step backwards before taking two steps forward, and its difficult to force yourself to do that when you’re learning from in-game situations.
Campbell’s flaws aren’t as cut and dry as Tebow’s throwing motion but the same concept applies. He’s developed bad habits which he was capable of playing with in college because of his dominant size and strength. The average collegiate lineman can’t compete with an athlete of Campbell’s stature, regardless of his fundamentals. If forced into NFL action too early, however, he’ll continue those habits of not finishing off blocks, allowing defenders to get into his chest and using poor footwork.
Campbell needs to be taken aside and told to re-learn the position starting with the basic fundamentals. Ideally, a team could select Campbell in the 3rd round and develop him over the course of a few seasons. As a 1st-round pick, however, Campbell will be put in difficult situations far too early. NFL teams want to win now, and most head coaches don’t have the job stability to look three years down the road.
Its a sad reality, but teams are so focused on winning now that players like Campbell often aren’t given a fair opportunity to succeed.