—Elite speed to stretch the field vertically but also a dynamic offensive weapon who did damage on jet sweeps, comeback routes and when the Buckeyes found creative ways to get him the ball. Timed at 4.31 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
—Agility is fantastic; makes smooth, easy cuts with loose hips, fast feet and dangerous ability to accelerate out of cuts and get upfield.
—Dangerous go-route player who can stretch the field but also has the quickness to be valuable working underneath coverage or through the middle of the field.
—Has the athleticism to truly separate in any situation. Will demand bracket coverage if he develops as a pure receiver.
—Brings immediate value to the return game.
—More of a gadget guy than a true wide receiver.
—Focus-related drops an issue, especially when working down the field.
—Was schemed open and given easy looks as a jet-sweep or dump-off option in the offense; might struggle to work himself open if drafted to play a conventional role.
—Needs time to develop his route tree; doesn’t have sharp cuts and lacks the intricacies of sinking his hips, chopping feet and timing his steps.
—Raw potential is intriguing but dangerous; could be like Michael Thomas or could be like Devin Smith.
Parris Campbell is one of the most explosive players in the class thanks to track-star speed, fantastic agility and production as a receiver and returner at Ohio State. He isn’t a true wide receiver yet, though, and will need time to develop as a route-runner. His value will be affected by the team that drafts him—if he goes to a system that demands him to be a conventional wideout, it could be a long process. If he’s drafted to be an offensive weapon, he has immediate star power.
The single most overrated day of the NFL offseason is the NFL Scouting Combine. For an extended weekend, the nation’s brightest young stars, and sometimes the third-stringers who went to prestigious schools, attend an extended workout where they get to prove if they’re fast, explosive, agile, and strong. Every year, deserving small school players get snubbed, but that’s beside the point. Generally speaking, an invite to the NFL Combine is a good sign for a player’s NFL career arc, as Combine attendees have more success and more longevity than those who don’t receive an invitation. Naturally, the true cause is most likely that these are most of the premium prospects and athletes, but hey, all we really need to know is that the Combine invitation is a good sign. Most years, there is a wide range of outcomes, with some players testing off the charts across the board (Saquon Barkley, George Kittle) and some players face-planting (Antonio Brown). Some players opt not to test in particular drills (Lamar Jackson, 40-yard dash) as well. Inevitably, nearly everyone over-reacts to the standout performances, especially when they are not accompanied by strong college production (which both Barkley and Kittle had, of course). We know that athleticism is important for running backs, but does it matter as much for wide receivers, especially if there are questions with their production profile? Unless you live under a rock, you know that the receiver most in question is D.K. Metcalf, who shredded the NFL Combine (except for the agility drills), but didn’t quite dominate at Ole Miss (perhaps due to the fact that he played with A.J. Brown and DaMarkus Lodge, but perhaps not).
To figure out if athleticism without college dominance matters, I looked at every rookie prospect and veteran wide receiver in the PlayerProfiler database who had Athleticism Score and a SPARQ-x Score (to ensure they had adequate speed, burst, and agility metrics), as well as a College Dominator. That’s over 700 veterans and almost 100 rookie prospects. I combined their athleticism metrics and compared against the group to get essentially a percentile rank of their athleticism metrics all combined into one, and did the same with College Dominator. By exploring the greatest differences between athleticism “rank” and College Dominator Rating “rank” I identified wide receivers whose athleticism vastly outranks their college production. Of the veterans, the nicest way I can put this is that most of the top players on my list had “unsuccessful” NFL careers as wide receivers.
I have heard of a lot of fringe NFL players, and six of the top ten do not fall in that category. Number two on the list is Devin Hester, who didn’t exactly have success as a wide receiver, so he doesn’t count as a success for this purpose. Greg Little checks in at number three, and made it through his rookie contract with the Browns… barely. He topped out at 61 receptions and 709 yards in his rookie season and never scored more than four touchdowns, though he was propelled to being a second-round draft pick by his athleticism and copious speculation. Robert Foster (who has about half of a decent season, and whose college numbers are depressed due to injury) is the only other player of note in the top 25 players on this list. Inside the top 50, we finally see success in the form of Chris Hogan (though his College Dominator Rating was depressed since he only played one year of college football, and played QB, WR, and DB all at the same time) and Marquise Goodwin. Even so, Hogan has never topped 50 yards/game in a given season, and Goodwin has a single season with 56 catches for 962 yards, but he only scored two touchdowns that year and has never topped 30 catches or 450 yards in another season. The last names of any relevance inside the top 50 players are Andrew Hawkins, Deonte Thompson, and Cordarrelle Patterson (like Hester, not successful as a wide receiver). So basically, it’s not pretty.
Now for the caveat: my list of veterans skews towards very weak college production more than elite athleticism. Only two players mentioned above (Hogan and Patterson) have over a 15% College Dominator. The composite athleticism scores by my calculations for every player came in over the 75th-percentile, for what it’s worth. However, even the top 50 list of players with a 15% or higher College Dominator (including Hogan and Patterson) includes few names of any relevance, though. Tyreek Hill, who breaks all models and logic, Martavis Bryant, who may have been much more successful but for off-field issues, and Travis Benjamin, who never ascended to a reliable fantasy producer, are the only three players with any real success on the list. The key point here is that athleticism with weak college production tends not to produce reliable fantasy football assets (or even reliable NFL players). So, where do we stand with the 2019 rookie class? There are several names whose athleticism far outranks their production profile (measured the same way as the veterans). Looking only at players of interest, some names stand out.
Late last week, the NFL draft took over sporting headlines across the country as the nation’s best college football players learned where they would play their professional ball.
One player who seemingly landed in the perfect spot was former Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campbell.
After dominating the competition in college with elite speed, Campbell landed with the Indianapolis Colts. With T.Y. Hilton on one side and big-bodied Devin Funchess on the other, Campbell can fill the slot and pick on linebackers.
This week, the Colts opened their rookie mini camp and, unsurprisingly, reporters were astonished with what they saw from the former Buckeye.
Holder wasn’t alone.
Fellow beat writer Zak Keefer praised Campbell’s efforts as well.
“Parris Campbell is probably the best player out here. Catching almost everything: Deep, outside, across the middle,” he said about the second-round pick.
It’s still early, but the reviews are in and Campbell looks like a future star in the making. He’ll get the opportunity to learn from one of the best in T.Y. Hilton.
Campbell made the smart decision of choosing the locker right next to Hilton. “I’m gonna be attached to his hip,” he said earlier in the week.
Stay tuned for more from rookie camps across the NFL.