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Has Calais Campbell Fallen Too Far?

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In my Seahawks Mock Draft, I have Seattle taking Best Available Talent with their first pick. I'm starting to wonder if that's not a phenomenal place to grab a longterm replacement for Patrick Kerney. Depending on the progress of Baraka Atkins, Seattle is either thin or very thin at defensive end. On a team that schemes around pass rush, that would be a disastrous deficiency. Still, you don't want to reach. You want to take a top value, perhaps one that can learn on the sidelines, or work in a rotation while Kerney remains effective.

That got me thinking about Calais Campbell. Campbell's stock dropped after a disappointing junior season, and has now dropped further after a disappointing Combine. One need only watch the guy to see the talent is there. He's a true 6'8", and wears his 290 like an Italian suite. He's lithe and agile and quick in open space. Had he stayed in school and posted a 10+ sack season, he'd be a confirmed top ten pick. But thanks to a sucky junior season coinciding with an even crappier campaign for his school, Miami, Campbell is in danger of falling out of the first round. You know who else had a sucky junior year, Chris Long. Long recorded only 4.5 sacks in 2006. In fact, since we're above using stats out of context to evaluate a player, right?, let's take a look at the three preeminent ends on the board in a slightly more refined way. Campbell and Vernon Gholston are both two year starters. Long started his sophomore season, but we'll cut him a break (2 sacks) and include only his past two (best) seasons. So instead of unduly focusing on their most recent season, let's look at their past two seasons and adjust for opponent pass attempts faced. That way, instead of getting a static number, we're left with a ratio: Sacks per pass attempt. (Just for the sake of clarity, I then projected their sack totals over 500 pass attempts.)

2006-2007
Long: 1 per 40.2 (12.5)
Gholston: 1 per 36.5 (13.5)
Campbell: 1 per 41.3 (12)

Gholston separates a bit from the pack, but it's far from sizable. Let's examine another contributing factor, the overall quality of each team's defense as measured by FEI.

2007
Ohio State: 0.12579 (1)
Virginia: 0.23201 (25)
Miami: 0.26223 (36)

2006
Ohio State: 0.16128 (6)
Virginia: 0.19721 (18)
Miami: 0.18144 (9)

Only Gholston played on a top 25 defense in both seasons. In 2006, Campbell posted 10.5 sacks. Sacks are representative of multiple player's efforts. From the DBs maintaing coverage to the DTs occupying blockers to the run stuffing linebacker who forced the third and long, the better the team defense around a player, the more likely he is to excel. A sack is indicative of both individual and team excellence.

Naturally, height doesn't define a player. It's less than inadequate, it's stupid. But it's not worthless, especially not when combined with a holistic look at a players build, athleticism and ability to develop. Seattle could take Campbell at 25, use him in a rotation, and allow him to develop under the tutelage of Kerney and Darryl Tapp. Perhaps work on his first step, a clear weakness of his game (to my eyes). Everything I've seen and read makes me think that Campbell is a special talent. When we talk about taking Best Available Talent, regardless of need or position, this is the kind of Talent with a "T" that comes to mind.