NFL Draft 2022 Scouting Report: WR David Bell, Purdue (by Ross Jacobs)
The first time I came across David Bell's name was two years ago while studying his former teammate at Purdue, Rondale Moore. I made a mental note of him but didn't look into it at the time. Then last summer RC and I covered him in our Devy series. We both agreed on the assessment: very polished, professional receiver but probably too slow to do much damage in the NFL.
That analysis was proven correct at the NFL combine when Bell turned in a dreadful 4.65 40-time to go along with bad jumps and even worse agility numbers. That was enough for RC as he generally doesn't like weaker athletes and I mostly passed over him for other intriguing options.
However, while going over everything this spring, I've come to the conclusion that while I do acknowledge that Bell's upside is certainly limited in the NFL, I still believe he can be a very valuable player in real life and in fantasy. So let's dig into his profile and see what Bell is and isn't.
Bell was a 4-star recruit coming out of high school, one of the top 20 ranked receivers in the country. He had offers from multiple bigger schools but chose to stay close to home in Indiana so that his disabled grandmother could come to his games and see him play.
He was an immediate contributor as a true freshman with an impressive 86-1035-7 line. When Rondale Moore was healthy the offense obviously ran through him, but Bell was a great sidekick and admirably held down the fort after Moore got injured in game 4. He also had to deal with a revolving door of mediocre QB's.
Purdue only played 6 games in the shortened 2020 season but he made the most of those games piling up 53 catches for 625 yards and 8 TD's, fully half of the offense's receiving production. As a junior this past season he finished with a 93-1286-6 line and finished 2nd in the Biletnikoff voting for the nation's top receiver. Not bad for a slow guy.
His game is exactly what you would expect. Lots of short to intermediate routes, strong hands, tough and reliable over the middle. He doesn't have the crispest routes because he doesn't have the fluidity to accelerate in and out of breaks at the highest level, but he knows how to work with what he does have. Despite his lack of deep speed, Bell has a respectable initial burst off the line combined with quick enough feet and a great hand-fighting game to swat defenders off of him. He's decent against man coverage but absolutely feasts on zone. There may not be another WR in this class (other than possibly Drake London) that is better at finding the soft spot between zones and settling down for easy catches.
*RC Note: I agree with Ross’s analysis. Bell is a professional WR who will be solid-to-good in the NFL. I’m not loving his Fantasy Football outlook because he’s not an explosive playmaker…he’s going to be slave to the quality of his QB, and the right relationship could be 2-3 years away.
Not sure the fit with Deshaun…not sure the fit with Deshaun + this stiff offense of Stefanki’s…and not sure what the coaching staff will be in 2-3 years if/after the Deshaun thing blows up in their faces and they all get fired. But at the end of the day, Bell is a good, professional WR with lacking speed that may not hinder him much for an underneath role…or haunts him for a lack of getting open as much as others, and with no after-the-catch pizzazz.
David Bell, Through the Lens of Our WR Scouting Algorithm:
--Consensus 1st team All-American in 2021
--2in the Biletnikoff voting
--2n in the Big 10 in catches per game and yards per game
--2 time First Team All Big 10 (2021, 2020)
--Big 10 Freshman of the Year in 2019
--Averaged 8 catches, 101.6 yards, and 0.72 TD's per game over his entire college career (232-2946-21 in 29 games)
2022 Scouting Combine:
6'1”/212, 9.25” hands, 32” arms
4.65 40-time, 2.66 20-yd, 1.56 10-yd
4.57 shuttle, 7.14 3-cone
33” vertical, 9'10” broad
The Historical WR Prospects to Whom David Bell Most Compares Within Our System
There are two very obvious comps and another I'm going to include to make a point.
5'11”/205, 10.25” hands, 31.75” arms
4.77 40-time, 2.84 20-yd, 1.73 10-yd
4.59 shuttle, 7.56 3-cone
28.5” vertical, 9'2” broad
And Keenan Allen who we don't have testing numbers for other than his 4.71 40-time
Both players were highly recruited out of high school, very productive in college, and fell in the draft due to concerns over their athleticism. Neither player has seemed to have an issue with that in the NFL though and Bell is significantly more athletic than Landry at very least. In fact, his 10 yard split is downright respectable.
Both Allen and Landry routinely receive north of 130 targets per year and finish somewhere in the range of 100 catches for 1000-1100 yards and 5-6 TD's. Those numbers are more than good enough to finish in the top 20 most years and occasionally higher.
Stylistically he's a blend of them, not as silky smooth as Allen and not as tough and gritty as Landry, somewhere in the middle.
This next comp doesn't really fit for a few reasons but I want to include it here to make a point about Bell's athleticism.
6'1”/214, 10” hands, 33.38” arms
4.57 40-time, 2.69 20-yd, 1.62-10 yd
4.5 shuttle, 6.83 3-cone
36” vertical, 9'7” broad
Bell and Hopkins are nearly the exact same size. Hopkins is 8/100ths of a second faster over 40 yards but Bell was faster over the first 10 yards. Hopkins jumped 3” higher but Bell jumped 3” longer. They have nearly identical shuttle times but Hopkins had a much better 3-cone.
The point is that there's not a whole lot of difference between them athletically and clearly it hasn't impacted Hopkins at all. I'm not trying to say they are similar caliber players. I don't think they are. Hopkins has some of the best hands and body control of any receiver since Larry Fitzgerald. He's quite a bit more dynamic than Bell. But the gap isn't as massive as some might lead you to believe.
Bell went in the 3r round of the draft, 99 overall (Allen went 76Landry 6) to a team that clearly seemed to value him. At their first meeting in person Head Coach Kevin Stefanski told Bell that he was the first WR he watched in the draft and he immediately decided he wanted him on the team.
Bell is going to have an advantage that several other WR's in this class don't...a franchise QB. While Bell will be catching passes from Deshaun Watson, London has Mariota now and Ridder or a rookie next year, Olave has Jameis, Treylon has Tannehill, Garrett Wilson has Zach Wilson, Dotson has Wentz, and Pickens has Kenny Pickett. Only Skyy Moore and Christian Watson arguably have better QB's and both of those guys come from smaller schools/conferences and don't have Bell's history of production.
He's a near lock to start the year as the #3 guy including a lot of time in the slot. There's no one else on the roster that can threaten that role and the Browns have already stated they won't be adding another veteran to the room further cementing their confidence in Bell. Amari Cooper likely isn't going anywhere soon, but Bell can certainly take over the #2 role from Donovan Peoples-Jones eventually. DPJ has shown flashes but no consistency so far and Bell fits the kind of quick rhythm passing game that Watson loves.
Bell may not hit the highs of Allen and Landry, but he fits into the same profile. He's going to be a very solid pro at the very least and should produce multiple WR2-3 finishes over his career at bare minimum.
He's currently going around 14th off the board in rookie drafts so he's not exactly cheap, but you should have multiple chances to add him during and after the season as Rookie Derangement Syndrome wears off. By next year he might be completely forgotten and overlooked. Wait for the price to drop and scoop him up for a trinket later in the season.