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The speedy emergence of De’Vondre Campbell from draft reach to playmaker

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When the Atlanta Falcons selected a relatively unknown player from the University of Minnesota in 2016, the pick was widely panned. He’s already a top defensive performer.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

We were pretty excited for De’Vondre Campbell’s potential when the Atlanta Falcons selected him. As a fan, you try to be cautiously optimistic that your draft picks can become awesome in just a few seasons. Campbell was considered a huge project that may never make his way to a starting job.

The criticisms were consistent: Campbell is very raw at his position. He had a low football IQ. Bad instincts. More of an athlete than a football player. These criticisms seemed to heavily discount that Campbell moved around positions a ton between high school, junior college, then finally at University of Minnesota.

Dan Quinn realized his potential, and knew with some better proper coaching, he could become a player. I did not think Campbell would play much in his rookie year, but he looked promising as a big hitter with the size and speed to cover both running backs and tight ends.

This offseason Campbell was moved to a linebacker spot that allowed him to play closer to the line, and flex his pass rush skill. The early results have been shocking. I pulled some of my favorite Campbell tweets from Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

It feels lazy to say a player was all over the field, but this man was all over the field. He ran in stride with Tarik Cohen on a deep pass, deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage, and made an impact as a pass rusher. The only place I didn’t see him was on offense.

It is just one game, but Campbell has flashed elite playmaking ability since his first game. We were expecting some big contributions by big names like Takk McKinley and Dontari Poe, but Campbell may make the biggest impact.