Aside from perhaps Pantherboy or a couple more of CSR's more extreme draftniks, it's hard to imagine University of California Safety D.J. Campbell was on any of our draft radars before his name got called last month.
There are several reasons for this. For one, when the Golden Bears take the field on Saturday nights most of us are probably still watching replays of the superior product being served up earlier in the day on the East Coast (jab!).
Of course, there is at least one football nut in Charlotte who tunes in to see Cal play most Saturdays, as The Charlotte Observer reported Panthers HC Ron Rivera's ties to the school didn't hurt Campbell in the team's evaluation process.
Here's another reason Campbell may have been flying relatively under our collective radar - dude wasn't even invited to the Scouting Combine. Had he been, however, the numbers from his Cal Pro Day would have translated quite well to Indy:
- 22 bench press reps of 225 pounds
|would have tied for first among safeties|
- 4.51 40-yard dash and 38-inch vertical leap
- 10' 7" broad jump
would have checked in second.
Despite these excellent comparisons to the crowd invited to audition for NFL teams at Indy, it would stand to reason there would have been a firm "glass ceiling" for his draft stock even had he made the trip. The 6'-even, 205-pound stature of this N. Las Vegas product doesn't exactly equate to elite size for a cover safety at the next level.
Furthermore, the Kipers and McShays of the field world would undoubtedly have questioned Campbell's overall production at the collegiate level, even if he did earn an Honorable Mention on the 2011 All Pac 12 Team, after being unable to crack the starting lineup for his first four years in the program.
After the Jump, we'll take a closer look at Campbell's collegiate statistics, as well as try to extrapolate anything we can about what intangibles this 23-year-old Social Welfare major may bring to the table.
As a redshirt senior and team captain in 2011, Campbell got his first chance to be on-the-field on a play-by-play basis and responded by registering across-the-board career highs of 71 tackles (fourth on the team), including 2.5 for a loss, a pair of interceptions (tied for team high), a pair of fumble recoveries, forcing another fumble and breaking up five pass plays.
He started all 13 games in 2011 after only having one start prior to the season. Despite his lack of starts, Campbell managed to play in 38 of the team's 39 contests during his final three years there, and posted double-digit tackles as a sophomore and junior, while being involved in a pair of turnovers on Special Teams during the 2009 season.
Some highlights from his chance to shine included a career-high 11 tackles (one for loss) and a fumble recovery in the team's rivalry game against UCLA. Campbell also came up big in big spots with eight tackles in the Holiday Bowl against Texas and seven tackles against USC (left coast version).
One thing that immediately stands out about Campbell is that he stuck around the program for five years, worked his way into the lineup and served as a leader when he finally got his spot. In a world of frequent college transfers and prospects who get a pass despite multiple arrests - it's got to mean something that this is a patient, hard-working guy who sees it through.
During his Pro Day, Campbell also demonstrated perspective and poise about the hard work he will have to put in to end up on an NFL roster,
"A lot of people tend to lose focus and lose sight of the goal they're trying to reach, which is making it into the NFL. So I tried to stay focused and surround myself with the people who had the same common goal. Things like constantly eating right, getting my rest, not going out much, getting treatment, keeping my mind fresh and my body right." (via Cal U's Athletics Web Site)
In the end analysis of this pick, the Panthers aren't expecting Campbell to push for a starting job in a crowded defensive backfield featuring a pair of returning starters with multiple years left on their contracts in Charles Godfrey and Sherrod Martin, a pair of free agent acquisitions who appear poised to make the leap to starter in the NFL in Haruki Nakamura and Reggie Smith and even some ready-made depth with returning reserve Jordan Pugh.
Campbell's best shot to secure a spot on the Panthers' roster is to make himself indispensable in the Special Teams phase for the 2012 season, and see where it goes from there.
Given his athleticism, maturity and the sense of hustle he'll hopefully bring to Camp, I wouldn't count him out. At the very least, I could see him occupying a spot on the team's practice roster as Martin's potential replacement when he's cut at some point during the season or flattened out on the Bank of America field like Wiley Coyote while giving up a touchdown to a 180-pound receiver.
And, if not... Well, it was a seventh round pick.