From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling a wide receiver prospect that has produced big numbers in the Big Ten the last couple years and figures to have his name called near the top of a deep wide receiver draft class.
#3 David Bell, WR, Purdue (Jr.) – 6007, 212 lbs.
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|David Bell||6’0 7/8”, 212lb||9 1/4”||31 7/8”||76 5/8”|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Has experience lining up both inside and outside of the formation on both sides
— Has a good-sized frame with decent length for the position
— Has some burst after the catch and in the open field
— Can leap into the air and attack the ball above the rim in contested coverage
— Possesses sneaky elusiveness to evade defenders after the catch as a runner
— Better-than-average contact balance for a receiver being able to shed arm tackles
— Knows how to create leverage as a route runner on a defensive back when coming out of his breaks
— Does a good job getting to the open portions of the field against zone coverage, sitting in the soft spots to provide his QB an easy target
— Footwork is skilled enough to get a step on defenders against man coverage when working over the middle or down the seam
— Will catch the ball in-stride and turn up field, securing the catch before becoming a runner
— Has been extremely productive in college at picking up YAC due to his vision and his aggressiveness
— Has some impressive circus catches on his resume, catching the ball with outstretched hands away from his frame
— Isn’t going to wow anyone with his straight-line speed or acceleration
— Would like to see him be more explosive out of his stance to really eat the defender’s cushion
— Separation often comes either against zone coverage where defenders don’t pick him up or on quick hitters near the LOS
— Does tend to body catch the ball more than you would like to see
— Can win some contested catches, but will struggle against more physical, athletic press man corners
— Isn’t interested in getting his nose dirty as a blocker, looking to graze past a defender with a shoulder rather than square up and punch
— Tons of his big plays came on coverage busts where defenders were out of position rather than him making a spectacular play.
— Junior prospect from Indianapolis, IN
— Born December 14, 2000 (age 21)
— Four-star wide receiver prospect and 2018 Gatorade Player of the Year in Indiana
— Multi-sport athlete also playing basketball
— Big Ten Freshman of the Year his first season on campus after catching 86 passes for 1,035 yards (12 YPR) and seven TDs along with three carries for 12 yards and a score in 12 games played
— Started six games in a pandemic-shortened season in 2020 and had 53 receptions for 625 yards (11.8 YPR) and eight touchdowns
— Played and started in 11 games as a junior in 2021, catching 93 passes for 1,286 yards (13.8 YPR) and six TDs while adding three carries for 39 yards on the ground
— Consensus First Team All-American in 2021, two-time First Team All-Big Ten in 2020 and 2021, Second Team All-Big Ten in 2019, Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2019
— All-Academic Big Ten in 2020
— Financial Counseling & Planning major
David Bell was born and raised here in Indiana, playing his high school ball as an all-state WR in Indianapolis. He didn’t have to travel far to play college ball, opting to stay in-state and suit up for the Purdue Boilermakers. Despite having future NFL WR Rondale Moore already on the team capturing the national spotlight, Bell actually outproduced Moore in 2019 and 2020, respectively as Moore dealt with various injuries, becoming the focal point of the Purdue passing attack.
When you watch Bell, you see a receiver that doesn’t wow you with impressive speed or explosiveness but is a smooth and fluid mover as a route runner. He does a good job leverage his routes, putting defenders in a bind tasked with covering him. Here is one example against Michigan State where Bell uses a hand swipe to get passed the corner and splits him and the safety to get free down the field where he catches the ball and spins out of one tackle, taking the ball by the five before he slips up while trying to cut back to make the last defender miss.
Here is another example of Bell’s route running prowess against Ohio State where he gets into the defender at the top of his route, then breaks back on the comeback route toward the ball, catching the pass and getting both feet down in-bounds to move the chains.
Bell isn’t a crazy athlete with it comes to stop/start quickness, but he can be pretty elusive in the open field as a runner with the ball in his hands as we saw above. Here is another example against my home state Hawkeyes where Bell catches the ball and outruns the defender covering him from behind and sidesteps out of another tackle attempt along the sideline, picking up the first down and taking the ball into scoring range.
Bell shows off his run-after-catch ability again later in the same game, catching a simple drag route near the LOS and manages to step out of the tackle attempt by the defender chasing from behind, running up the right sideline and picks up huge yardage with his legs before he is escorted out of bounds be another defender that catches up to him and pushes him out.
When Moore was out of the lineup with injury or in the league this season, it left Bell as the focal point of the passing attack for the Boilermakers, making defenses key in on him and occasionally roll coverage his way. We saw Purdue respond by utilizing Bell all over the formation, moving from outside to in the slot and having go on jet sweeps prior to the snap to get him in advantageous situations. We see an example of that here versus the Buckeyes as Bell comes on the jet motion, catching the ball in the flat and steps out of a diving tackle attempt in the sideline, picking up additional yardage before being carried out of bounds.
Like I mentioned earlier, Bell isn’t a receiver that is going to threaten you with home run, deep speed. However, he ability to leverage defenders out of his breaks is quite impressive, creating instant separation to earn the target and bring in the explosive play downfield. Watch this rep against the Hawkeyes and #8 Matt Hankins where Bell hits him with the double move, head faking inside to sell the in-braking route and then breaks on the fade to the end zone that he hauls into the breadbasket. Hankins doesn’t do himself any favors with his eyes glued in the backfield, but Bell does a good job getting Hankins spinning on his break.
Bell tore apart Iowa’s soft zone coverage that afternoon to a tune of 11 receptions for 240 yards and a score the help Purdue knock off the then-ranked #2 team in the nation. Bell capitalized in leveraging his routes and finding the soft spots in the zone to make the Hawkeyes pay for not changing up their coverage scheme after his first few big plays. Check out that grab Bell as he breaks on the deep post pattern toward the middle of the field as Hankins is in bail technique on the snap of the ball, giving Bell the middle of the field where he splits the CB and S and brings in the deep ball over the shoulder for the chunk play.
While Bell catches a lot of his passes in-stride or when squared up in the soft spots of zone coverage, he has the ball skills and leaping ability to make some nice jump ball catches against contested coverage. The one play that will stick out above the rest in this category is this grab against Notre Dame where Bell gets a nice inside release off the LOS against man coverage, getting a step on the defender covering him who trips him up from behind, but still manages to track the ball in the air and snag it with outstretched hands while being parallel to the ground for the impressive circus catch.
Bell profiles more as that possession receiver that wins with his route running and ability to separate as well as his ability to pick up the key conversions over the middle of the field. Here is another example of a tough catch made by Bell against Oregon State where Bell locates the soft spot of the coverage in the middle of the field and runs to the open spot to give his QB an open target. Bell catches the ball and holds on the complete the process of the catch as the defender comes from behind, sticking his left arm in there in attempt to knock the ball out and force the incompletion.
Still, while Bell is a well-versed receiver when working against zone coverage and at getting open with leverage, he lacks that quick twitch and explosiveness to pull away from the defense both as a runner after the catch as well as a route runner. He is a smooth route runner but can be crisper out of his routes as he will get marginal separation and lacks the speed to prevent cover men from recovering against him. See, for example this play against Ohio State where Bell tries to run the end zone fade, but doesn’t stack the corner on the outside, having the pass fall incomplete right in-front of him.
Bell has shown that he can make grabs in contested coverage, but he shouldn’t be considered a gladiator over the middle of the field who routinely brings in the tough catches on contact. Here is another missed opportunity against the Buckeyes where Bell gets the ball thrown to him on a back shoulder fade but fails to bring it in as he attempts to body catch the ball as the defender successfully jars the ball free out of his hands. Bell is really close to making a great grab here, but he needs to tuck that ball away to convert on the pass attempt.
Another thing that I was not impressed with when watching Bell’s tape is his lack of interest as a blocker in the run game or when asked to block for his fellow receivers on screen plays. He often would choose to put his body in the way or not engage the defender at all as a blocker, limiting the ability to win on the outside when another defender wasn’t accounted for.
Overall, David Bell is an extremely smooth receiver that won’t wow you with his physical traits, but still manages to win in a variety of was in the passing game. He often gets compared to the likes of Davante Adams or Justin Jefferson due to a similar play style and physical stature, but I see both Adams and Jefferson as more nuanced route runners that win more at creating better separation as well as being just better athletes.
Another name that came to mind for a pro comparison for Bell that is likely a better athlete as well but is closer in terms of play style and ability to separate and create YAC is recent first-round selection Rashod Bateman of the Baltimore Ravens. Both receivers boast similar frames and can be seen as chain movers over the middle of the field yet have that ability to win down the field and bring in those spectacular catches. Bateman is more explosive than Bell as an athlete as I mentioned, but both receivers broke out early in the Big Ten with another future NFL receiver ahead of them (Tyler Johnson in the case of Bateman) and figure to be steady producers at the next level.
Bell best projects as an X receiver at the next level that can occasionally kick inside the slot and excel working the middle of the field against zone coverage and occasionally down the field on play action. He probably best profiles as a #2 receiver in a passing attack, complimenting a more dynamic receiver, much like Bateman compliments Hollywood Brown in Baltimore.
The Steelers already have their X-style receiver in Diontae Johnson and need more of that explosive deep threat, making Bell an interesting fit should they consider drafting him. I wouldn’t say Bell is completely off their board, but rather there are other prospects in this draft that better compliment their current need at the position.
Projection: Early to Mid Day Two
Depot Draft Grade: 8.1 – Future Quality Starter (2nd Round)
Games Watched: at Iowa (2021), at Ohio State (2021), at Notre Dame (2021)