Every so often we come across a player who challenges our idea of what an “athlete” is. Generally speaking, athletic measurements do a pretty good job of telling us just how athletic a player is — or isn’t.
Some players, like Jerry Rice, Jason Pierre-Paul, Cooper Kupp, or Orlando Brown are obviously good athletes on the field, but they test out as mediocre to bad athletes.
Purdue wide receiver David Bell could be another player in this type of mold. Bell shows some athletic limitations on the field — and tested poorly at the Combine — but has been consistently productive, even against the highest competition.
The New York Giants could use a savvy and reliable receiver to help keep their offense on schedule. Could Bell be an option for the Giants’ offensive rebuild?
Prospect: David Bell (3)
Games Watched: vs. Minnesota (2020), vs. Notre Dame (2021), vs. Iowa (2021), vs. Ohio State (2021)
Courtesy: Kent Lee Platte (@mathbomb), RAS Football
(note: 6007 is 6-foot, 7/8 inches)
Games Played: 29
Yards (YPC): 2,946 (12.7 per catch)
Total Touchdowns: 21 (20 receiving, 1 rushing on 6 career carries)
Games Played: 11
Yards (YPC): 1,286 (13.8 per catch)
Total Touchdowns: 6
Best: Route running, ball skills, hands, quickness, agility
Worst: Speed, blocking
Projection: A flanker or slot in a West Coast, or “Spread Coast” offense
(Bell is Purdue WR number 3)
David Bell is a precise, dependable, and productive wide receiver prospect from Purdue University.
Bell has been a consistent contributor in Purdue’s offense, catching 232 passes in 29 games (8 receptions per game). He is used in a variety of roles in Purdue’s passing offense, from catching quick passes to supplement the running game to stretching the field on vertical passes. Bell has aligned as both a wide receiver and slot receiver, and runs a varied route tree from both alignments.
Bell has a good release off the line of scrimmage, playing with good suddenness and using his hands well to avoid being disrupted by press coverage. He is a very good route runner and uses every phase of the route to his advantage. Bell does a great job of varying his stride length and tempo to upset defenders’ timing. He also does a great job of manipulating his path to create additional room at the top of his routes – or using subtle fakes to throw off corners from guessing his intentions. Bell does a good job of pressing the stems of short routes vertically, getting corners to flip their hips before he works back to the ball. Likewise, he also does a good job of using his routes to stress defenders and drawing defensive pass interference.
Bell’s routes are also useful for his teammates and he does a great job of positioning himself to (legally) interfere with defenders’ paths to the ball and creates room for his teammates to work. Finally, Bell does a good job of tailoring his routes to the situation and bending them to find voids in zone coverages.
Bell has good ball skills and is a reliable catcher of the ball. He does a great job of locating the ball in the air, tracking it downfield, and has the body control to adjust and make very difficult catches. His hands are generally reliable and he does a good job of securing the ball as he goes to the ground.
Bell plays with great competitive toughness downfield. He is willing to lay out and take on contact when working in the middle of the field and fights hard for the ball at the catch point.
He is also surprisingly effective after the catch. Bell has good contact balance to fight through arm tackles or keep his feet through shoulder checks. His short-area quickness and agility show up as a ball carrier and his route running usually puts him in good position to pick up yards after the catch.
While Bell is a willing blocker for his teammates, he is much more effective on rub routes than as a traditional blocker. He lacks play strength and technique when blocking, making it difficult for him to sustain his blocks.
Bell’s lack of great athleticism is evident on tape. He struggles to separate from cornerbacks vertically, and can even struggle to separate horizontally on crossing routes. That could curtail the types of routes and situations in which he is used at the NFL level. Likewise, he might have more positional limitations than he had in college.
Overall Grade: 7.1
David Bell projects best as a number 2 or 3 receiver in a West Coast offense. He will likely need to be limited to the Slot or Flanker positions at the NFL level, and may be best thought of as a possession receiver with the upside to generate big plays in a good scheme.
Bell is, overall, an athletically limited player. However, he does possess good short-area quickness and agility which he makes use of as a route runner – and Bell is a very good route runner. Not only is he precise in his routes with great field awareness, but he also runs his routes very intelligently. Bell routinely appears to be thinking a couple moves ahead of defenders, and runs his routes accordingly. They aren’t just a path to get from the line of scrimmage to the catch point, but a tool to give him as good a chance to make the catch as possible.
Bell does a great job of using his routes to manipulate the defender, doing things like getting them to flip their hips early or bending a vertical route toward the center of the field to give himself more space for a sideline catch. He’s great at finding voids in coverage, and making difficult catches
Likewise, he knows how to run his routes in conjunction with his teammates to create opportunities for them. He’s very skilled at using his own routes to create traffic and interfering with defenders without getting called for a pick play or pass interference.
All that said, Bell IS a limited athlete, and coaches will need to account for that. Teams should try to avoid matching him up one-on-one with athletic corners, or using him in isolation very often.
Teams might drop Bell down their draft boards because of his pedestrian testing numbers, but he should impress once he gets on the practice field.