Quality Canadian offensive lineman are paramount to success in the CFL, and the best teams will continually draft at least one – and sometimes up to three – each and every year.
Continually drafting Canadian offensive lineman in bulk every year is crucial, as the CFL draft is, in many ways, a crap-shoot – some picks will pan out, others will flop. Injuries take a toll and make careers short for many offensive lineman, the best of which will depart for the NFL.
With CFL success often being directly affiliated with Canadian content along the offensive lineman, the best teams will often draft one early every year regardless of their needs, and another later on. This year’s class of offensive lineman, however, is not particularly deep. There’s a strong top-tier of offensive lineman, which can now be divided into two tiers with the emergence of Grand Valley State’s Brandon Revenberg and Simon Fraser’s Michael Couture, but it falls off after that.
One player who could be a nice late-round find is York offensive tackle Jamal Campbell, a testing monster at the CFL combine.
Campbell will be a large project for whichever team takes a flier on the 6-foot-5, 292-pound book-end, but it only takes one team to look past the glaring technical issues and see Campbell for the prospect he really is: an athletic freak with a ton of potential.
As the great coach Bill Walsh once said, “You can teach an athlete to be a technician, but you can’t teach a technician to be an athlete.”
Campbell’s testing numbers were off the charts at the CFL combine, as the Toronto, ON. native clocked a mind-blowing 4.984-second 40-yard dash, 31-inch vertical and 7.41-second three-cone time. And while testing numbers are a poor way to evaluate offensive lineman, they can somewhat be an indication of the ever-important athleticism factor, particularly for offensive tackle prospects.
Campbell’s athleticism, the most important piece of playing offensive tackle, is noticeable not only during tests, but also on the field. His short-area quickness is apparent in his kick steps, which requires quick, nimble feet to mirror and contain outside pass rushers while recovering inside to wall-off stunts and twists – Campbell’s natural abilities allows him to do that.
Campbell is also extremely powerful in his upper-body, displaying a powerful punch. He can shock the defender with his initial punch, latch on and not be easily swatted away once engaged. Campbell, evidently, has a lot of natural ability, which can’t be coached at the next level. Natural ability often is a sign of potential, and with the right coaching, Campbell could become an excellent late-round draft pick in the future.
Of course, it’ll take a team willing to invest a lot of time into Campbell. He’s very raw and lacks a lot of fundamental technique, stemming from a lot of different areas. There’s obviously not a lot of film out on the York product, but I found that his eight reps during one-on-ones at the CFL combine showed both the good and the bad of his game.
Balance is very important for offensive lineman, and Campbell often gets too upright in his stance. He’ll often over-extend and reach for the defender, leaving himself susceptible to finesse moves or underneath cuts. His footwork is another issue, and while it’s good to have a wide stance, he can reach too far out wide with his kick steps rather than taking shorter, quicker steps, which he’s quite capable of.
While these are all fixable issues, this doesn’t mean Campbell is a home-run pick, of course, as some of his flaws are quite detrimental if he isn’t able to compensate using some of his strengths.
Campbell still needs to develop his lower-body and add muscle, and as I touched on earlier, he lacks patience. He’ll often rely too much on his athleticism rather than his technique, which will need a lot of work. And as a Canadian offensive tackle who probably doesn’t fit the mold as a guard, the odds become increasingly low for Campbell – many blue-chip, first-round picks who were book-ends in college must move inside to play in the CFL.
But with his freakish athleticism, Campbell has potential. He’s going to be a huge project, and perhaps some teams don’t have the time or the patience to invest into the development of an offensive tackle who, even with seasoning on the practice roster, may never develop into a legitimate professional offensive lineman.
Campbell should still be worth a late-round pick, and while it’s ludicrous to project him as the next Jon Gott (fifth-round pick in 2008) or Chris Greaves (sixth-round pick as a defensive lineman in 2010), he’s shown enough upside to maybe think he could become a solid depth player after some grooming, which would be exceeding expectations for a late-round pick at offensive tackle.
All that’s apparent is that Campbell has potential, and in a draft class of offensive lineman that isn’t very deep, the York product is likely the best developmental offensive lineman in the draft. He has a lot of glaring issues and is far from being any-sort of a technician out wide, but with off-the-charts athleticism, he’ll be in many ways a blank canvas for offensive line coaches to paint into the player they want.