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Exit Interview: Jonathan Campbell

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Is it cool if I say “I told you so”?

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Chicago Fire
Jonathan Campbell rocks his new beard Pre-Game. Here’s to hoping it sticks around, as well as his solid play.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Campbell, CB

6-ft-2, 190 lb, 23 years old, born in Greensboro, NC

Drafted 12th overall by the Fire in the 2016 SuperDraft (pick acquired from Colorado who originally acquired it from LA (the Fire pick traded to acquire that pick was traded from Seattle for Joevin Jones))

MLSPU 2016 salary: $78,125

2016 Stats

Appearances: 33 Games started: 30 Minutes: 2823 Goals: 1 Assists: 1

Career Stats

Same as 2016 (duh, he’s a rookie).

Scouting Report

(From pre-draft writings) "Campbell isn't huge, but he's broad-shouldered and is reliable distributor from the back. He won't break the game open on either side of the ball, but he'll keep it moving and knows how to communicate."

... a good athlete whose positioning and connecting play improved sharply through the early season ... hit a flat stretch in the late midseason, right around when most rookies start to get gassed ... times headed balls well, a decent target on set pieces ... still has room to grow in every phase of the mental game, but communicates well and seems a leader in the making

2016 Recap

To preface this recap, I’m just going to be the one to tell all of you I called it. I took a couple looks at a couple of sources on this draft and this was the guy I thought was the best for the Fire. And I was right.

Though he seemed a bit shaky at times, picking up an own goal against Philly on June 22nd, he really held his own in the back and proved himself. He came on as a substitute in the first game of the season and instantly fell into a role he’d stay in the rest of the season. That role was one of a leader in the defense. It didn’t hurt that the Fire were constantly parking the bus, but he made sure to not be the one guy to make the game-changing mistake.

I think the main story of his season was that he looked like the beginnings of the next CJ Brown (at least on the field, community-wise no one can come close to CJ). He was a rock on the backline and the leadership that drew me to him during my college scouting is clearly still there. I would completely make the claim that he would be my second place winner for MLS Rookie of the Year (right behind the true and rightful winner, Keegan Rosenberry; Why yes, I am in denial).

2017 Outlook

For next year, I think that his production will depend on his partner in back. His best time back there was next to Johan Kappelhof, but he slipped a bit when paired with João Meira. They were able to get their bearings later on; but if I were Pauno, I would want to keep J-Camp right next to Kappelhof for guidance. Unfortunately, Kapp would probably be much better at right back, so Meira it is! That means that they will have to solidify their partnership in the back (or maybe draft another rookie defender). [Editor’s note: Or buy an experienced partner to mentor him; is that a fantasy?]

But going forward even more, I see him as one of the mythical "core of 6-9 players" that N-Rod keeps pointing to as a basis of The Process. He's a young player who made very few (major) mistakes his rookie year and he can only get better from here (right?). And at his current salary, why not see him out? His contract’s option has already been picked up, so he's already here next year, but we all know how N-Rod treats his young players with potential (See: Shipp, Harrison).

To round this all up, I will once again say, "I told you so." Hopefully my next draft suggestion does as well (stay tuned for that article).