Almost exactly six years ago, Michael Campanaro committed to Wake Forest. He chose the university over offers from North Carolina and Northwestern.
Despite eventually flourishing as a wide receiver, Campanaro was recruited as a general athlete. The Clarksville, Maryland native caught just 25 total passes over his junior and senior varsity seasons at River Hill High School. In 2008, however, he broke the 2,000-yard mark on the ground, carrying the ball 200 times and scoring 29 touchdowns.
As was typical under former head coach Jim Grobe, Campanaro was redshirted for his true freshman season. In 2010, he saw limited offensive action, even though he appeared in all 12 regular season games.
The shifty playmaker finally broke out in his sophomore season as a full-time wide receiver. He would go on to catch 229 total passes, finishing his Demon Deacon career as the program’s all-time leader in receptions.
After five years it’s finally time for Campanaro to move on from Winston-Salem and make the jump to the NFL, but where can we expect him to end up?
His performance at the NFL Combine certainly helped his draft stock. His 4.46 40-time placed him in the top half of participating wide receivers, and his vertical jump of 39 inches was tied for sixth-best. Most impressively, the 5’9", 192 pound Campanaro bench pressed 225 pounds 20 times, fourth-best among receivers. By comparison, 6’5", 266 pound Jadeveon Clowney maxed out at 21 reps.
All solid numbers for a guy of his stature, but the main question league executives want to know about Campanaro is, can he stay healthy?
He has dealt with a variety of injuries over his career, most notably a broken collarbone this past season and a broken hand in 2012. For the most part, he’s made quick recoveries and obviously his on-the-field performance hasn’t been affected.
To carve out a place for himself in the NFL, Campanaro will likely need to fill a slot receiver role. With teams playing more sets with four or five receivers, he shouldn’t have trouble finding a landing spot.
He’s shaping up to be a mid-round selection, with CBS Sports projecting him as a fifth round pick. In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Campanaro himself claimed that most general managers pegged him as a third round prospect.
That's probably a bit optimistic, but history has shown that draft position doesn't always mean much for smaller slot receivers. Both Wes Welker and Danny Amendola were undrafted and bounced around for a few years before finding success at the next level. As far as measurables go, Welker recorded a 40-yard dash time of 4.65 seconds and managed a vertical jump of just 30 inches. Amendola's numbers were 4.68 and 30.5, respectively.
Campanaro compares quite favorably to the pair, and this suggests he should be able to find a role on a team's roster.
Just this past Monday, he worked out for the Baltimore Ravens at their team headquarters. In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Campanaro described the audition as "awesome." He had the opportunity to work with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and wide receivers coach Bobby Engram.
This marks the third time Campanaro has met with his hometown team. They held an informal meeting with him at the combine and also talked to him at the Senior Bowl.
In addition to the Ravens, Campanaro has met with the Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets, both at the combine. He also spoke with Carolina Panthers wide receivers coach and former Demon Deacon Ricky Proehl.
Any of the above teams seem like they could benefit from the addition of Campanaro, as all four are in need of a reliable slot receiver.
Working against him is being part of one of the deepest receiver draft classes in recent memory. Teams are expected to find legitimate starters in the second and third rounds. To put this in perspective, 6'5", 240 pound Kelvin Benjamin, who caught 15 touchdown passes for Florida State this season, is ranked as CBS Sports' tenth best prospect at the position.
Only two wideouts were selected in the first round of the 2013 draft. This year expect that number to at least double. Draft experts are predicting possibly as many as seven to be picked on day one.
Nonetheless, Campanaro is optimistic about his future as a professional, wherever he is picked.
"I showed teams my athleticism is up there with the best in the league," Campanaro said in an earlier interview with The Baltimore Sun.
"Across the board, I felt like I had one of the best overall combines. I feel like I have the savvy to work the middle and perform the way the Welkers and Amendolas have as a slot receiver. What I do will translate to the NFL."