Draft Review: Dan Campbell

Dan Campbell was a good player who has become a great coach

GOSSELIN DRAFT ANALYSIS: Dan Campbell’s freshman season at Texas A&M ended with a broken leg and became a part-time starter in both his junior and senior seasons, catching 27 career passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns. His teammates voted him the 1998 Aggie Heart Award, the school’s highest honor for a senior player. It recognizes the intangibles – accountability, attitude, competitiveness, courage, determination, effort and leadership. Campbell played in the East-West Shrine all-star game and was invited to the NFL combine, where he ran a 4.80 40-yard draft, bench-pressed 225 pounds 25 times and charted a vertical jump of 36 inches. Gosselin rated him the third tight end in the 1999 draft behind Reggie Kelly of Tennessee and Jim Kleinsasser of North Dakota and placed him at No. 62 on his Top 100 draft board. The New York Giants drafted him in the third round with the 79th overall pick.

Here are comments on Campbell from four talent evaluators leading up to his draft:

Scout: Best blocker (in this draft) with a big upside. Raised on a ranch, had to get his driver’s license when he was 15 so he could drive to school. Did chores. Cowboy upbringing. Fought his way through the competition to start his senior year at Texas A&M. Tough, hard-nosed, honest, down-to-earth kid. Doesn’t know much about receiving but he’s learning. A real raw talent.

Scout II: Gorgeous combine. More flexible and athletic than I thought he’d be. Try-hard blocker without much movement.

Scout III: Best combo tight end (in this draft). He’ll come in as someone’s third guy. Not as strong as Kleinsasser.

Scout IV: Not a factor in the passing game.

RESUME: Campbell went on to play 10 NFL seasons and started games for three different teams (Giants, Cowboys, Lions). His best season came with Detroit in 2006 when he caught 21 passes for 308 yards and four touchdowns. He retired from the Lions after the 2008 season – but who knew he would return to Detroit as a head coach to engineer one of the greatest turnarounds in NFL history. Detroit had not reached an NFC title game since 1991, had not won a division title since 1993 and had not been to the playoffs since 2016. But in his third season of the franchise’s multi-decade rebuild, Campbell, 47, delivered a franchise-record 12 victories, an NFC North title and the Lions are back in the NFC title game this weekend.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Gosselin spent 20 years as the NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, including 20 offseasons studying and researching prospects for the NFL draft. He didn’t watch any tape – he was a writer, not a scout – but he talked to the men who did watch tape. He built a network of NFL general managers, head coaches, personnel directors, scouts and assistant coaches from all 32 teams who would share with him their analyses of players. Gosselin used their insights to build his own draft board, Top 100 board and mock drafts. For 10 consecutive years he had the best Top 100 board in the country (2001-10), according to the Huddle Report, and three times he produced the best mock draft. Gosselin has been resurrecting his college scouting reports this summer for a look back at how NFL talent evaluators viewed draft prospects.

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