The Iowa Hawkeyes currently lead the Big Ten East and one of the reasons for that is their championship-level defense. The leader of this defense is middle linebacker Jack Campbell, who is one of the most prolific players in college football. How is Campbell doing in the 2023 NFL Draft?
In high school, Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell was a tackling machine, recording 168 tackles in his senior year at Cedar Falls High School. In addition to his 168 tackles this season, he also set the school record for career tackles with 338 stops. This production led to several schools pursuing Campbell, including Iowa, Iowa State, and Minnesota.
Jack Campbell decided to bring his talent to Iowa City, where he saw action for the Hawkeyes from day one. In his freshman year, Campbell spent mostly time on special teams, playing 11 games but recording only two tackles a year.
He saw more time in his sophomore year as Campbell started the final five games of the year. His top games this season were against Penn State when he recorded seven tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. In addition to his strong play against Penn State, he also looked like a future star against Nebraska as he had eight tackles. Overall, Campbell walked away with 29 tackles that year and averaged 5.8 tackles in the five games he started.
In 2021, Campbell became one of the leaders of the Iowa defense and one of the Big Ten’s most prolific players. Last season, he ranked second in the Big Ten with 143 tackles, which was also the fifth-highest total in Iowa history. In addition to his performance, Campbell was also recognized as the team’s leader, made permanent team captain, and placed on the team’s player council.
This season was another strong year for Campbell, having already recorded 109 tackles this season. He currently ranks first in the Big Ten for tackles per game. His best game of the year came last week when he recorded 10 tackles and an important interception that set up the game-winning field goal against Minnesota.
The NFL draft hopeful also had a stellar performance against Illinois, registering 13 tackles and a fumble recovery. Campbell has done well against some of the toughest competition he’s faced this season. In his two games against the top five teams — Ohio State and Michigan — the star linebacker has totaled 20 tackles and one interception.
The first positive thing to notice when watching Jack Campbell transition to the NFL is how strong he is against the run. In this area he shows excellent instincts and extensive discipline. He’s rarely out of position on his runs, and in direct duels with the ball carrier he’s always able to make the tackle.
Another positive aspect of Campbell is his leadership quality. He does an excellent job of teaching the responsibilities of the Iowa defense and is one of the main reasons Iowa’s defense is among the best in the nation. He’s also a strong dressing room presence and someone you can rely on to give 100% day in, day out.
One of Campbell’s biggest concerns is that he’s more of an old-school linebacker than the smaller, more athletic linebacker you see in today’s game. His lack of elite sporting skills will hurt him in coverage and overall passing. He lacks the speed and general agility to hold his own against running backs and tight ends in cover, and may be limited to playing zone coverage in the NFL.
While Jack Campbell was prolific in stopping the run, his lack of playmaking skills could affect NFL draft scouts. During his career in Iowa, he racked up 287 tackles, but of those tackles, only 11.5 were forfeits. He’s only taken 2 sacks in his four years in Iowa. While some of that is down to Iowa not biting him very much, you’d love to see more big plays from a potential early NFL draft pick at middle linebacker.
When it comes to how Jack Campbell will move to the NFL, I see him as a solid backup linebacker. He’ll also be someone a team can count on as a strong defender and a player who’s ready to go as a two-down linebacker. He’s also a player who should be able to break into special teams and will likely have plenty of time for kickoff and punt coverage. Where he will go in the 2023 NFL Draft I currently have in the fifth round.