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The Wonder of De’Vondre

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the 2020 NFL Free Agency period, the Arizona Cardinals had a very high grade on ILB De’Vondre Campbell and they made signing him one of their top off-season priorities.

Despite being ranked PFF’s #148 UFA in the 2020 class, Campbell felt he was in line for a big payday—-and when the Cardinals first came calling—-he and his agent balked at their contract offer.

When the market didn’t materialize for him the way Campbell hoped, he agreed to take a one year “prove it” deal with the Cardinals for $6M, which, with incentives could wind up being $8.5M.

The Wonder of De’Vondre Campbell...

As in—-one has to wonder why the Cardinals are so high on him—-especially seeing as the Cardinals have been relying on analytics more heavily these days—-because, look as his PFF numbers for the past 3 seasons:

2019 921-snaps, 50.1—-overall (71st/89LBs); O.1—-WAR (#33/89LBs)

2018: 902-snaps, 57.4—-overall (66th/91LBs); 0.13—-WAR (#31/91LBs)

2017: 1,056-snaps, 69.1—-overall (#23rd/85LBs); 0.17—-WAR (#18/85LBs)

Breaking Down Campbell’s 2019 PFF grades:

50.1—-Overall; 62.5—-RUN defense; 82.7—-TACKLING; 55.2—-PASS RUSH; 41.1—-COVERAGE

Plusses: Run defense and tackling grades—-NFL rankings for Campbell:

Solo Tackles: 75 (15th)

Assists: 54 (20th)

Interceptions: 2 (6th)

Forced Fumbles: 3 (1st)

Minuses: Coverage (stats for last 3 seasons):

2019: 69—-targets; 58—-receptions; 84.1%, 612—-yards; 4—-TDs

2018: 60—-targets; 47—-receptions; 78.3%, 494—-yards; 3—-TDs

2017: 58—-targets; 41—-receptions; 70.7%, 390—-yards; 1—-TDs

It is a wonder why Campbell himself claims he is one of the best cover LBs in the NFL and that he can take on any TE man to man. These coverage numbers do very little to support his claim.

When you go back and look at the scouting report on Campbell when he came out of the University of Minnesota in 2016, it looks and reads spot-on. Here have a look—-and there is a good accompanying short video of some his college plays.

Campbell also claims that he is an effective pass rusher and that he should be used more in that role. He led Minnesota in sacks as a senior with 5. In 4 years with the Falcons he collected 5.5 sacks. He has good length—-good quickness—-a strong, whirly-bird kind of motor—-but at 6’4” 232 pounds, he has to rely on quickness, because he can get readily out-muscled by NFL tackles.

One has to wonder whether the Cardinals would have signed De’Vondre Campbell if they knew they had a good chance of drafting Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons. But, as Steve Keim has said, the Cardinals were pleasantly surprised to see Simmons on the board at #8—-and were not even answering the phone for trade calls while they were on the clock.

But—-I think the Cardinals are thrilled to have both Campbell and Simmons, as it gives Vance Jospeh added freedom to be creative.

Simmons appears to be a more versatile player (athletic and scheme-wise) than Campbell. Simmons is faster to the ball and stickier in overage. At this point, Campbell is a tad more physical, instinctive and (far more) experienced as an ILB.

So—-exactly what are the Cardinals getting in De’Vondre Campbell?

1—-Good athlete with length (6’4”, 232) and 4.58 speed (very good for ILBs).

2—-Above average production versus the run (129 combined tackles in 2019 and 3 forced fumbles).

3—-An intriguing situational pass rusher.

4—-The physical potential and ability to be able to cover TEs man to man—-but thus far has been untapped.

2020 Role?

I think it’s very likely that De’Vondre Campbell will start and play the running downs at WILB. The question is just how well he fits in the nickel and sub packages. His biggest struggle has been in playing zone coverage—-but in the sub packages he could be used in two different ways: (1) to cover a TE man-to-man; (2) to be used as a situational pass rusher from the edge or from the inside.

Here’s what the Cardinals like about De’Vondre Campbell:

Do you think De’Vondre Campbell is going to be a wonderful fit with the Cardinals?