Jack Campbell

Lions Sign First-Round LB Jack Campbell

The second of the Lions’ two first-round picks is now under contract. The team announced Jack Campbell signed his rookie deal Tuesday.

While the Lions still have some work to do to finish their draft class deals, Campbell is now attached to his four-year rookie pact that will run through 2026. Three years from now, the Lions will have the opportunity to extend the Iowa-developed linebacker’s deal through 2027 via the fifth-year option.

One of this year’s most surprising first-round picks, Campbell went to Detroit at No. 18 despite ranking 49th on Daniel Jeremiah’s NFL.com big board and 57th on Scouts Inc.’s pre-draft board. GM Brad Holmes addressed the disparities between their first-rounders’ draft slots, with Jahmyr Gibbs going off the board at No. 12, and media assessments. While Holmes said he probably could have traded down and acquired Campbell later in Round 1, he did not want to take the chance.

The Lions, who contemplated taking Gibbs at No. 6 before the Cardinals called about a trade, made Campbell the highest off-ball linebacker chosen this year. Eschewing positional value with their first-round choices, the Lions will bank on Gibbs and Campbell being mainstays for years. The Lions missed on the last first-round linebacker they took — Jarrad Davis in 2017 — but they showed conviction with their unexpected Campbell pick.

The 6-foot-4 ‘backer won the Butkus award, given to the top Division I-FBS linebacker, last year. An All-American in 2022, Campbell earned first-team All-Big Ten acclaim in 2021 as well. Campbell totaled an astonishing 265 tackles between his junior and senior seasons, combining for four interceptions in that span as well. Jeremiah lauded Campbell’s run defense and tackling but tabbed him as needing some work in coverage, but the Lions will need him to step in quickly.

After a woeful defensive performance last season, the Lions have made several investments to bolster the unit this offseason. Campbell represents the top move at linebacker, though the team did re-sign Alex Anzalone. Detroit added several pieces — Cameron Sutton, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Emmanuel Moseley, second-round pick Brian Branch — to upgrade its secondary as well.

Draft Notes: Young, Chiefs, Saints, Addison, Vikings, Patriots, Campbell, Lions

Panthers brass joined other front offices in being wowed by Bryce Young during his 2021 Heisman-winning season, and the team had mostly decided on the Alabama prospect by the time Frank Reich arrived. David Tepper and Panthers scouts had zeroed in on Young — prior to making the trade with the Bears — and Reich learned of the staff’s preference early during his tenure.

And it was unanimous with every guy in that room, starting from [GM] Scott [Fitterer] on down, that Bryce was the guy. That was great for me to hear,” Reich said of an early-February meeting, via The Athletic’s Joe Person (subscription required). “But what I appreciate about the way Scott handled it, he was like, ‘Frank, you take your time.’ … And it wasn’t much convincing.”

Fitterer said he sought Reich’s final stance late in the process. It would have been interesting had Reich, who was initially mentioned as preferring a taller passer, stood his ground for another prospect. He was believed to also be intrigued by Anthony Richardson. But the veteran HC will be coaching a 5-foot-10 quarterback in Carolina.

Here is the latest from the draft, as we head into Day 2:

  • The Vikings closed the record-breaking run on wide receivers at No. 23, selecting Jordan Addison, the fourth straight receiver taken from Nos. 20-23. But Minnesota received interest in the pick. The Chiefs and Saints contacted the Vikings about moving up to 23, per KTSP’s Darren Wolfson, who adds the belief is at least one of the teams eyeing a trade-up would have taken the USC wide receiver (Twitter link). The Vikings appear to have received an offer, but they instead chose Addison. The Chiefs were mentioned as a team pursuing a move up the board, and the defending Super Bowl champions — after J.J. Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman‘s exits — had done a lot of work on this year’s wideout class. The Saints have not re-signed Jarvis Landry and have not seen much of a healthy Michael Thomas since the 2010s. Both teams will probably be on the hunt for receivers tonight.
  • It is not surprising to see Patriots first-round trade-downs, and the team allowing the Steelers to leapfrog the Jets for tackle Broderick Jones likely made the move doubly intriguing for Bill Belichick. But the Pats turned in their draft card quickly at No. 17, selecting cornerback Christian Gonzalez. New England was high enough on the Oregon product it was close to finalizing a trade-up move from No. 14, Jeff Howe of The Athletic tweets. The Commanders had been in on corners, but they chose Mississippi State ballhawk Emmanuel Forbes over Gonzalez at No. 16.
  • While the Patriots have been praised for nabbing a high-end prospect a bit later than he was expected to go, the Lions bucked pre-draft rankings by taking a running back (Jahmyr Gibbs) at No. 12 and an off-ball linebacker (Jack Campbell) at 18. Campbell, in particular, was not viewed as especially likely to be a first-round pick, and GM Brad Holmes admitted he probably could have nabbed the Iowa defender if he had traded down once again. “It’s not about just don’t pick a running back [in Round 1] because that’s not how we really view [Gibbs],” Holmes said, via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. “And then it’s the same thing about don’t pick an off-ball linebacker. That’s not really how we view Jack. If you put them in boxes and you put on a sheet of paper and you run mock draft analytics, yeah, you can come up with those stats. But all the hours and research and all the time that we put in, in terms of looking at these players, it becomes very, very visible that what kind of impact they can bring.”

Lions Select LB Jack Campbell At No. 18

After using the No. 12 pick on an offensive player, the Lions are using their second first-round selection on a defender. Detroit is selecting Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell with the No. 18 pick.

Tossing caution to the wind regarding positional value for top-20 picks, the Lions have now taken a running back (Jahmyr Gibbs) and an off-ball linebacker. After the Gibbs pick doubled as a borderline luxury investment, the Lions addressed a more pressing need with their second selection tonight.

This pick can be seen as a bit of a reach, however. ESPN’s Scouts Inc. ranked Campbell 58th overall coming into the draft; NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah barely squeezed the Iowa product inside his top 50, slotting him 49th on his big board. Campbell finished the first round as the only off-ball linebacker selected. This was not believed to be a strong class at the off-ball positions, with neither the linebacker crop nor safety group — zero safeties went off the board in Round 1 — receiving tremendous pre-draft accolades.

Campbell brings intriguing size — at 6-foot-5, 249 pounds — and delivered bigtime production at the Big Ten program. The Cedar Falls, Iowa, native combined for 265 tackles and four interceptions over the past two seasons. The former state champion high school basketball player earned All-American acclaim; he will join a Lions team that ranked last defensively in 2022.

Although the Lions improved down the stretch, Aaron Glenn‘s unit submitted ugly statistics on the whole. The Lions ranked last in total defense and 28th in points allowed. Pro Football Focus gave the Lions’ top linebackers middle-of-the-pack grades, slotting Malcolm Rodriguez, Derrick Barnes and Alex Anzalone just outside the top 45 at the position. Campbell will join this crew, which also includes Jalen Reeves-Maybin, whom the team brought back in late March. The Lions also re-signed Anzalone. In Campbell, however, the team made a bigger investment and bucked pre-draft rankings do so. Will the move pay off?