By Mike Crum
Dallas Cowboys Team Analyst and Co-Host of the Across The Cowboys Podcast
COVID-19 has caused a lot of questions about the 2021 draft class. The NFL will not have it's yearly Scouting Combine, there will be limited Pro Days, no in-person interviews, and essentially all front offices will have to find their way around these difficulties to build the best draft board possible. It could be a smart tactic to look towards prospects with very good traits for their position that can be coached up. Possibly no prospect fits that mold more than Georgia CB Tyson Campbell.
Measurables: 6' 2", 185 pounds
If Dan Quinn were to sculpt an ideal prospect to play opposite Trevon Diggs in his system, Tyson Campbell might be a composite for it. For Quinn, Diggs brings the big, physical CB style of play which he adores. At 6'2' and 200-plus pounds, Diggs can play with any big WR in this league and was tasked with doing so all last season. For every DK Metcalf, Julio Jones, or O'Dell Beckham we found our rookie facing, the opposite side had a Tyler Lockett, a Calvin Ridley, or a Jarvis Landry. Quinn would like to pair a quicker, fast twitch, speedy CB that still has the length most CBs that play cover three need. Tyson Campbell is tall, with length to play press man effectively. He also shows loose hips and ease out of his breaks. His 10.39 100-meter dash as a senior in high school shows catch up type speed even if he does make false steps on occasion. Campbell’s 40 time is expected to be in the 4.4 range with a chance to go under even. SEC wide receivers had trouble running by Campbell, and NFL WRs will as well.
Here is Campbell going against Auburn’s Seth Williams. Williams is a very good 50/50 ball prospect who, at 6’3” and 224 pounds, has the height & physicality to just go up & pluck balls out of the air seemingly at will. Ideally, Diggs would line up across a WR with that skill set, but Campbell does have the ability to cover these types of WRs as well. Campbell's speed allows him to play up knowing Williams can’t out run him even if he gets past him. Campbell understands how to maximize his length by using the sideline as an ally, and he has the size necessary to play the ball at any point Williams can try to go up and get it. The scary thing is, he isn’t just a scheme fit CB that has to play press coverage (i.e., man to man coverage). He might be best fit to play in off-man zone coverages, where he can make plays on the ball better. At his full potential, Campbell could be Richard Sherman with 4.4 speed.
Look here as Campbell reads the QB. Once his man, #81, stops, Campbell drops back in the passing lane for the easy interception. Another fun thing about Tyson Campbell is he is not only tall and fast but he will make quick decisions and play very physically.
This is a staple nowadays in modern NFL red zone and short yardage offenses. Motion the WR across the field and the CB, Campbell, has to follow his WR assignment. The idea being if you get any kind of space, a quick throw will guide the WR right into the end zone because the angle is just too tough for the CB to reach in time. Campbell has to avoid any pickoffs from the "trash" as he follows the WR across, and then be quick and physical enough to get to the ball carrier and of course, get him on the ground.
Here is another example of Tyson being physical in another staple of the modern NFL passing game - the WR screen. Even though the slot WR seems to forget he is supposed to go block Campbell, its still up to Campbell to step up and finish the play.
Production is Tyson Campbell's primary weakness. With all the glowing praise I’ve heaped on him as a prospect, he has one INT in his entire career at Georgia (stats shown above). Georgia teaches a type of defense that Cowboys fans know all too well: They face guard.
This play just looks like a Kris Richard clone from Byron Jones and Chidobe "Chido" Awuzie. That is a part of Campbell's lack of production, but Campbell also has had a problem with awareness in terms of locating and playing the ball in the air.
In this matchup with consensus top-20 pick, Kyle Pitts, Campbell again gets Pitts to the sideline as he excels at doing, and although he is in position to turn his head and make a play, he is late in doing so and also turns his head the wrong way. Again he is coached to play the man, but quarterbacks will take their shots in one-on-one coverage versus Campbell if he can’t improve in that area.
In a perfect world, Quinn would love to pair a more speedy CB with Diggs, Campbell does bring that without sacrificing height or length. Looking ahead, the Cowboys have a possible mass exodus from their secondary with Chido, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods all being free agents. The Cowboys will likely look to bring in two or three defensive backs in this draft. The list could include Caleb Farley, Patrick Surtain II, or Jaycee Horn with their 10th overall pick, rendering this conversation moot. But what if they go with an offensive tackle at 10, or decide to trade back to a position in which all three of the aforementioned top CB prospects are gone? In comes Tyson Campbell. That doesn't come without risk though. No matter how good the prospects are, going into a year with at least three spots in your defensive backfield filled by guys all with less than 16 starts experience isn't ideal. In the NFL, one miscommunication can be catastrophic as we saw last year from a more experienced Cowboys DB room last season. Here is an example. Campbell going up against Alabama stand out, Jalen Waddle.
Once Alabama sends their WR in motion, both Georgia CBs slide in and #7, Tyrique Stevenson, points at Waddle saying he is mine. As the play unfolds, the miscommunication begins. Stevenson begins to follow Waddle outside before realizing he needs to switch and stay inside. This causes the safety to that side to lean inside as he sees the mistake. This leaves Waddle one on one with Campbell, who already isn't at the depth necessary to stay with Waddle, even at Campbell's speed. One miscommunication leads to a 90-yard touchdown. If the Cowboys decide to not bring in some sort of veteran help in the secondary via free agency, then these things could occur with horrifying frequency. It wouldn't be a poor reflection on the players per se, just a sign that they would need experience. Unfortunately, we know patience isn't always in any fanbases' nature. Tyson Campbell and Trevon Diggs could be a lethal CB pairing for years to come, should the Cowboys decide to go in that direction, and they'd make their new defensive coaches quite happy I'd be willing to bet.
Across the Board Sports