2023 NFL Draft Profile: Iowa Standout Jack Campbell is the Best Linebacker in the Big Ten

Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell (31) gestures during a NCAA Big Ten Conference football game against Northwestern, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.221029 Northwestern Iowa Fb 015 Jpg
Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell (31) gestures during a NCAA Big Ten Conference football game against Northwestern, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.221029 Northwestern Iowa Fb 015 Jpg /

The Iowa Hawkeyes are currently leading the Big Ten East, and one of the reasons for this is their defense, which has been playing at a championship level. The leader of that defense is middle linebacker, Jack Campbell, who is one of the most productive players in college football. How does Campbell fare in the 2023 NFL Draft?

In high school, Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell was a tackling machine who recorded 168 tackles his senior year at Cedar Falls High School. In addition to his 168 tackles that season, he was able to set the school record for career tackles with 338 stops. This production led to several schools pursuing Campbell including Iowa, Iowa State, and Minnesota.

Jack Campbell decided to take his talent to Iowa City where he saw action from day one for the Hawkeyes. His first year, Campbell primarily saw time on special teams, playing 11 games, but only recording two tackles on the year.

He started to see more time in his sophomore year, with Campbell starting the last five games of the year. His top games that season came against Penn State, when he was able to record seven tackles, one sack, and a forced fumble. In addition to his strong game against Penn State, he also looked like a future star against Nebraska as he was able to make eight tackles. Overall, on the year, Campbell came away with 29 tackles and averaged 5.8 tackles in the five games he started.

In 2021, Campbell became one of the leaders of Iowa’s defense and one of the most productive players in the Big Ten. Last season, he ranked second in the Big Ten in tackles with 143, which was also the fifth-highest total in Iowa history. In addition to his production, Campbell also was recognized as a leader on the team, being named a permanent  team captain, and being put on the team’s player council.

This season has been another strong year for Campbell, having already recorded 109 tackles on the season. He currently ranks first in the Big Ten for tackles per game. His best game of the year came this past week when he recorded 10 tackles and a key interception that set up the game-winning field goal against Minnesota.

The NFL Draft hopeful also had a stellar performance against Illinois when he registered 13 tackles and one fumble recovery. Campbell has shown up well against the toughest competition he has faced this season. In his two games against top-five teams — Ohio State and Michigan — the star linebacker has come away with a combined 20 tackles and one interception.

When looking at how Jack Campbell transitions to the NFL, the first positive thing that jumps out is how strong he is against the run. In this area, he shows outstanding instincts and overall discipline. He is rarely out of position in his run fits, and when he goes head-to-head with the ball carrier, he is consistently able to make the tackle.

Another positive with Campbell is his leadership ability. He does a terrific job of communicating the assignments of the Iowa defense and is one of the main reasons why Iowa’s defense is one of the best in the nation. He is also a strong locker room presence and is someone you can count on giving 100% day in and day out.

One of the biggest concerns with Campbell is that he is more of an old-school linebacker than the smaller, more athletic linebacker you see in today’s game. His lack of elite athletic ability will hurt him in coverage and overall in the passing game. He lacks the speed and overall agility to hold up against running backs and tight ends in coverage and might be limited to playing zone coverage in the NFL.

While Jack Campbell has been very productive stopping the run, his lack of playmaking skills could concern NFL Draft scouts. During his career at Iowa, he has accounted for 287 tackles, but of those tackles, only 11.5 were tackles for loss. He has only come away with 2 sacks over his four years in Iowa. While some of this can be attributed to Iowa not biting him much, you would like to see more big plays from a potential early NFL Draft pick at middle linebacker.

When it comes to how Jack Campbell will transition to the NFL, I see him being a solid backup linebacker. He will also be someone a team can count on to be a strong run defender and a player who can see immediate playing time as a two-down linebacker. He is also a player who should be able to contribute on special teams, and will likely see plenty of time on kickoff and punt coverage. As far as where he will go in the 2023 NFL Draft, I currently have a fifth-round grade.