INDIANAPOLIS — After trading back early during last month's 2019 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts went without a first-round selection. However, one of the players they selected in Round 2 has been generating quite a bit of buzz already.
Sitting on the clock with the 59th-overall pick, general manager Chris Ballard and the Colts made Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campbell the newest member of the Horseshoe, giving quarterback Andrew Luck another weapon in his arsenal.
Pulling the strings on one of the NFL's most potent offenses, Colts head coach Frank Reich certainly knows what this unit could be capable of moving forward with someone like Campbell running around.
“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," Reich said. "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. But the 4.31 speed, the high character, the intelligence and the high character is important because that has to be an unselfish room. We preach that all the time in that room that, ‘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.”
It's not just Reich, Ballard and the rest of the Colts organization that is a fan of this pick, however. Analysts all over the country are applauding the move — especially fantasy football analysts.
FantasyPros asked a panel of industry experts to give their thoughts on which rookies' stock is most on the rise due to the situation they were drafted into, as well as when they should be selected in fantasy drafts. Campbell's name came up multiple times:
“'Most might overlook this one, but I believe Campbell is worth a top-six pick in rookie drafts right now. The Colts are the perfect landing spot for him, as T.Y. Hilton presents enough speed where teams cannot be too concerned with Campbell underneath, which is where he’ll play for the Colts, filling the slot role. He should be able to do plenty of damage after the catch while using his 4.31-second speed on the turf in Indianapolis.'
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)
“'Only the Steelers attempted more passes than the Colts last season. While Andrew Luck has plenty of options, Parris Campbell represents the perfect underneath complement to T.Y. Hilton and Devin Funchess. It’s not far-fetched to take the speedster over every receiver besides N’Keal Harry in dynasty rookie drafts.'
– Andrew Gould (FantasyPros)"
J.J. Zachariason from numberFire ranked Campbell No. 5 in his post-draft rookie rankings:
“According to Pro Football Focus, Parris Campbell caught exactly two deep-ball (20-plus yards down the field) passes last season. Considering his 4.31 speed, that's...a little odd. And that's what's worrisome about his potential in the NFL. It's not that he can't be a dynamic vertical threat. It's that we just don't know.
Fortunately, he landed in a spot with one of the best deep-ball receivers in the game. And now the Colts have three starting receivers for 2019 who bring a unique skillset to the table. Hilton will continue to see a large target share and stretch the field, newcomer Devin Funchess will be a bigger-bodied pass-catcher for quarterback Andrew Luck, and Campbell can play a similar role that he played at Ohio State where he made big plays after catching the ball closer to the line of scrimmage. And we know there'll be opportunity there -- the Colts were second in the NFL last season in neutral game script (when games were within a six-point margin) pass-to-rush attempt ratio.”
Campbell is familiar with the questions about his route running. While admitting he's going to work on it, he knows he's capable of more than what was on display in Columbus.
“I think the question kind of coming out was, ‘Can he run routes?’ Since I had never done it, everyone just kind of put a no on it," Campbell said. "But I mean I’m not going to lie to you, it is something that I needed to work on just because I didn’t have experience. So that was kind of my main focus throughout that whole process. Then having a guy like Coach (Brian) Hartline at Ohio State, who is a technician, was great for me and great for my teammates. So just going in that was kind of my main focus.”
NFL Media senior fantasy analyst Michael Fabiano released his own fantasy rookie rankings and placed Campbell at No. 8:
“Campbell is coming off a breakout season for the Buckeyes, producing 90 receptions and 12 touchdowns as the top option for Dwayne Haskins. He was also very sure-handed, catching 82 percent of the 111 targets he saw last season. If he earns the third spot on the wideout depth chart and with Andrew Luck under center, Campbell will be a sleeper.”
NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein released a list of his three favorite picks per round from last month’s 2019 NFL Draft. Want to take a guess at who popped up for the second round?
“After finishing my study of his tape, I realized that it was not unreasonable to put a first-round grade on Campbell, even though he was unlikely to be picked that early. He has great size, tremendous speed and offers value as a return man. The Colts can use him as both a field stretcher and a catch-and-run target near the line of scrimmage for Andrew Luck. He has the deep speed to force some safety focus away from T.Y. Hilton in that offense.”
NFL Media fantasy managing editor Graham Barfield released his own rankings specifically for dynasty/keeper fantasy leagues, listing Campbell at No. 9.
“Campbell's fit in Indianapolis is easy to identify. T.Y. Hilton and Devin Funchess will patrol the boundary, Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle provide security in the middle of the field and red-zone, while Campbell can be safely penciled in as the Colts primary slot receiver. Campbell ran 87 percent of his routes and led all draft-eligible WRs in targets per route run at Ohio State last season. The Colts have plenty of mouths to feed, but there should be plenty of volume to go around. In Andrew Luck's return last year, the Colts finished second in pass attempts per game and they were third in pass rate when the game was within a score (8 points).”
So there you have it.
When you consider Campbell won't have all defensive eyes on him because of the embarrassment of riches the Colts have in the passing game with Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron, Devin Funchess, T.Y. Hilton, etc., it makes for an attractive situation. Having an upper-echelon quarterback such as Andrew Luck throwing you passes doesn't hurt either.
Campbell also has the benefit of Reich, who is enamored with Campbell, calling the plays. Not only does Campbell have elite speed, but he actually knows what to do with it, too. And Reich knows how to draw things up to take advantage of Campbell's speed, whether that's as a decoy or the actual target of the play. Campbell can turn five-yard catches into 75-yard touchdowns no matter how the ball gets into his hands.
Reich and the Colts had a similar excitement about running back Nyheim Hines in last year's draft, and he nearly broke the team's franchise record for receptions by a rookie.
There is also the possibility of Campbell as a return specialist. If the Colts continue giving him reps as a punt and kickoff returner, perhaps he earns one of those spots and then presents the potential to put up an extra six points any given gameday due to taking a return back to the house.