Wake Forest has one of the most unique offenses in college football. It is not the formations they use or the plays they run, but the featured player in their offense. The Demon Deacons run most of their offense through their slot receiver, Michael Campanaro. When they are lined up in trips, he is the slot. When they have two receivers on the field, he is one of them. They run a ton of their offense through Campanaro in addition to getting contributions from him on special teams.
Campanaro gets a ton of passes thrown to him and is relied upon to make the offense go in Fayatteville. Going to the NFL, he is a tremendous fit as a slot receiver who can maybe help as a returner. Campanaro is stronger than some might expect and has shown an impressive ability to create separation and get open. He catches the ball well and is able to make plays after the catch. Some teams put a premium value on the slot while others will move it towards the bottom of their chart for what they look for, so Campanaro could end up sneaking into the end of day two of the draft or being a solid early day three pick because of all of the things he can do and the fact he should be able to step in and contribute immediately.
Vitals & Build
Campanaro is listed at 5’11” 190lbs and he is a strong looking player, but it would not be a surprise if he measured in shorter than his listed height. His feet stand out with his agility and body control. He seems to be able to do virtually anything from gaining speed quickly to changing direction in space. Campanaro has shown he could take a hit and is stronger than some might expect despite not being an imposing figure. It is difficult to imagine Campanaro can continue to add much more when it comes to his physical ability, but anything he adds at this point is purely a bonus as he brings a great athletic skill set to the next level.
Route Running & Technique
Campanaro’s stance is fine, but it is not great. He fires off forward with little wasted motion and is able to get into his routes quickly.
The attribute that stands out most with Campanaro is his feet. He has incredible body control and the ability to make extremely sharp cuts as well as plant and change direction with little or no effort. As a result, he has shown he can be a terrific route runner and the key for Campanaro is bring the same effort into every route.
When he wants to, Campanaro is virtually impossible to defend and can create separation with little effort, which makes him a valuable receiver. Campanaro does a great job running slants or selling the wheel, but if there is one route that really shows off his ability in running routes, it is the whip route. There are a lot of teams that save the whip route for short yardage and many save it for goal line situations. Wake Forest will use it on a random second down and they will run it both ways. He is able to attack forward and plant his feet to go inside, plant his foot in the ground and go the other way leaving opponents in his wake.
Campanaro is at his best when he is able to make moves within the route. For instance, Campanaro can run a perfectly fine vertical route attacking down the field and will show the ability to get open and make a play, but he is much more difficult to deal with when he is able to plant his foot and make a great cut.
He can run a bevy of different routes without even going five yards down the field, but he does have the ability to attack down the field whether it be on deeper slants and posts or going vertical with posts, flags, and wheels. His biggest contributions will likely be underneath with the ability to get yards after the catch, but he can surprise opponents down the field.
Campanaro has shown to have great awareness when it comes to finding a hole in the defense and settling in it. He has a good sense of what defenses are trying to do and exploiting it. Maybe the most impressive ability he has is knowing when a play or route is not going to work and not sitting on it. In that situation, Campanaro does a great job of going somewhere to get open and give his quarterback an option to throw the football, while also losing the defender trying to cover him.
Despite his size, Campanaro has shown the ability to create space to make catches down the field and shows an extra gear to get that last bit of extra space to make a play.
Occasionally, Campanaro will run into issues when opponents can body him out but he does have the strength where he is more difficult to move and shove out of the play than people think and he will fight for position. There are times when Campanaro appears to run a less than great route and it might be more of an indication of how much he plays and how tired he is rather than effort.
Campanaro has shown to be a pretty reliable receiver. He is usually comfortable catching the ball with his hands and can make plays away from his body. Campanaro has a pretty good catch radius and has shown the ability to reach out and make some impressive catches. As long as Campanaro can get his hands on the football, he is a safe bet to catch the ball. Drops are rare.
Run After Catch
Campanaro has a ton of experience running with the ball in his hands as he has caught a ton of passes and they have just handed him the ball quite a bit. He also has some experience throwing the ball. As a result, Campanaro will occasionally carry the ball way away from his body in a position that can allow it to be knocked out with little effort from opponents.
As a runner, Campanaro is extremely shifty and quick with the ability to plant his foot in the ground and make opponents miss. Campanaro has shown he knows how to get skinny and fit through creases and can avoid tacklers by using his lack of size to his advantage. He is also explosive when it comes to his ability to gain speed and get additional yardage. Campanaro is not afraid to lower his shoulder and try to fight for tough yardage when the situation warrants it, which also works to keep opponents honest.
When it comes to blocking, Campanaro’s effort vary as do the results. In situations when Campanaro is able to go get a block or set up in front of a defender, he does a pretty good job of keeping them out of the play. There are definitely times when defenders will get past him. He prefers to mirror when he is able.
There are times when Campanaro has to sit short and set up a block and take the full brunt of an opponent’s hit and he sits in and takes it. It usually ends up with him picking himself off of the ground, but he will put his body in harm’s way.
Campanaro will surprise opponents when he is able to catch them from the side or unaware he is coming and he will occasionally flash his power and land a big pancake block. The effort needs to be there consistently as does the technique so he does not have to rely on his size which gets him crushed at times.
Campanaro has experience retrurning both kicks and punts. His quickness and agility suggest he can do the job, but the results have largely been average. It is possible that he could get better in the NFL and potentially contribute in that role, but it will require more work to be consistent.
The best fit for Campanaro is as a slot receiver on a team that values the position. He looks like he can be a plug and play type player that can come in and take a role quickly with a team. He seems to be at his best with underneath routes and quick release routes, but he can attack down the field a little bit.
Teams that run spread type concepts and use a lot of receivers would probably get the most use out of Campanaro, but he looks like he could contribute as an outside receiver on occasion. There is some potential with him as a returner as well.
The only comparison that seems to fit is Wes Welker. The current Denver Bronco and former New England Patriot and Miami Dolphin has redefined the slot receiver position in the NFL with his ability to create separation and surprising strength and power. Campanaro is actually bigger than Welker if his listed size is true. It is difficult to imagine that Campanaro will be as successful as Welker has been, but he certainly has the same type of skill set that could allow him to be a tough opponent. Welker’s lack of size almost seems to help him because it is difficult to get a bead on him when it comes to jamming him, so it will be interesting to see if Campanaro’s bigger body proves to be a problem at the next level.
Campanaro has an obvious skill set that lends itself extremely well to be a slot receiver in the NFL. His feet and body control are impressive and he can plant his foot in the ground, change directions and gain speed quickly, making him difficult to cover in space. Campanaro has shown he can be the focal point of a collegiate offense, so he should be able to make the adjustment to having other opponents take pressure away from him in the NFL. Campanaro needs to work to be consistent with his effort on every route and if he can improve as a blocker, it would make his viability in a base spread type offense that much better. Based on what he brings to the table, it seems as though Campanaro could sneak into the bottom of the third round or end up going in the fourth or fifth round of the draft.
Some of the film used for this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com