INDIANAPOLIS — Judging from the 2018 season, the Indianapolis Colts have a lot of diversity on the offensive side of the ball under head coach Frank Reich and coordinator Nick Sirianni.
After Friday night, Reich now appears to have more talented players on the roster than he knows what to do with just yet after the team selected speedy Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campbell in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
“It’s funny, I have said this to you guys before, but as a coach you always feel you so much love the guys you work with that I always think, ‘Hey, we don’t need anybody else. We already got the best guys in the world playing for us,’” Reich told reporters after Friday’s draft haul. “And then all of a sudden, now you’re giving us more? This isn’t fair. It’s not going to be fair.
"And then you get a guy that runs 4.31 and you just say, ‘It’s going to be fun to see these guys work together.’”
Campbell saw quite a bit of action as a slot receiver at Ohio State, as well as some gadget plays like sweeps and end-arounds. He also acted as a kickoff returner in 2016 and 2017. In general, the coaches wanted to get the ball in his hands as often and in as many ways as possible.
His background as a high school running back as well as his second gear of speed helps Campbell turn into a difference-maker with the ball in his hands.
All of these things blended together to form a player that Reich became smitten with.
“Well, Chris (Ballard) will tell you the first time I saw him on film, I have my eye – there were several guys, Parris was the one guy that really jumped off the tape to me. Just his explosiveness. Playing in the slot, you see all the things he can do, but I really saw some abilities in him that I thought translate and make him not just a slot receiver that you can do a lot of different things with him,” Reich said.
“But the 4.31 speed, the high character, the intelligence and the high character is important because that has to be an unselfish room,” Reich continued. “We preach that all the time in that room they ‘Hey, we are an unselfish group.’ So he will come in and will have to earn his stripes, but certainly excited about his ability and his character.”
While Reich and general manager Chris Ballard spoke the media Friday night, it was evident that Ballard knew Reich was a big fan of Campbell’s during the pre-draft process. He was then asked about it.
“It was at the Combine, remember?" Ballard asked Reich. "His Combine workout was incredible, and look, in that offense he was used a primarily a slot only at Ohio State, and the Combine you saw him do things that you never really got to see him do just because of the way he used them. I mean as a route runner, his hands – I know Frank got intoxicated with him just running around our turf during the Combine. He is an exciting player for us.”
That Combine workout — which, again, was at Campbell’s future new home field at Lucas Oil Stadium — really helped put him on the map and bump him into the possible first-round conversation.
His measurements were adequate at 5-11, 205 with 32 ¼” arms. However, it was the athletic tests and the on-field positional drills that had Campbell refusing to be overshadowed by anyone else at the event.
He was tied for the third-fastest 40-yard dash time among any other participant at 4.31, tied for 12th in the vertical jump (40.0”), tied for fifth in the broad jump (135.0”), and tied for fourth in the short shuttle (4.03). He didn't run in the three-cone but all those scores verify what his tape shows, and that's an explosive player with good change-of-direction abilities.
As a player on the field, Campbell — who some draft experts have compared to former Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks star Percy Harvin — only appears to be scratching the surface. Ohio State used him on a lot of quick routes without a diversity of branches on the route tree. However, he did those well and appears to be capable of more than was shown in that department collegiately. The Colts may look to get him more involved downfield.
Campbell knows how to find the soft spots in coverage and to sit in and make the catch in order to move the chains. However, if he gets the ball in stride with the ability to create yards after the catch; it’s on.
He is creative after the catch and will look for open cut-back lanes, not just giving the cookie-cutter stutter-steps to try and make would-be tacklers miss.
Campbell is not just fast, but he’s also got quick feet and can change direction sharply, this is both as a route runner and after the catch.
On top of it all, if you ever want to find out about a receiver’s football character, watch him as a blocker. Campbell checks this box, as he gives good effort there and genuinely tries to keep open lanes for his ball carrier.
Like any incoming rookie, there are obviously areas for improvement, but they are very coachable for Campbell.
Campbell has really nice foot quickness, but it appears he hasn’t yet fully developed a way to use it as a weapon at the line to get a good release from the defender. He already gets good separation using his speed and sharp change-of-direction abilities, but if he can develop his footwork even more, then he could be deadly in all facets of his game.
Next, while Campbell does have good hands, he is prone to the occasional concentration drop. With the amount of plays he’s bound to make for the Colts, they’ll live with it if it continues — after all, no one catches 100 percent of their targets — but the Colts work on this a lot with their receivers by tailoring drills to cause mass distraction at the catch point.
There is a lot of competition ahead for Campbell, but his presence should also put the veterans on notice at the same time. There are now 12 receivers on the Colts’ roster including Campbell, and that number is before undrafted free agent signings are announced.
Four current Colts receivers — T.Y. Hilton, Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal and Marcus Johnson — caught passes from Andrew Luck in 2018. Then, you add on the intriguing signing of big-bodied receiver Devin Funchess into the mix this year. The Colts also selected two players in last year’s class — Deon Cain and Daurice Fountain — who weren’t able to make an impact in 2018 but are champing at the bit to make a name for themselves in 2019.
Add Campbell into all that and you’ve got an incredibly talented receiver corps with endless potential. Either way you look at it, it’s got to have Luck smiling from ear to ear.