As dynasty fantasy football managers look towards the NFL Draft, Purdue WR David Bell has established himself as a name to remember for 2022. Following a successful collegiate career, what are Bell’s strengths, are there any concerns, and how did his landing spot impact his dynasty value in 2022 and beyond?
David Bell’s fantasy profile
Last season, what were your thoughts on Rashod Bateman? To me, he did everything well and was one of the most pro-ready receivers. There was no singular elite trait — he was just very good at all the critical skills required to be an NFL-caliber receiver. That’s David Bell this year.
A three-year starter at Purdue, Bell was a producer in all three years and made his mark on West Lafayette right from the start. He hauled in 86 receptions for 1,035 yards and 7 touchdowns as a true freshman.
Due to the mess that was the 2020 Big Ten season, Bell and the Boilermakers only played in six games. With that said, his stats still jump off the page. In those six games, Bell had 53 receptions on 77 targets for 625 yards and 8 TDs. That’s absurd.
Nothing changed in 2021, either. In 11 games, the 6’2″, 210-pound junior posted 93 receptions on 133 targets for 1,275 yards and 6 scores. In his 29 games at Purdue, Bell had a per-game average of 11.6 targets, 8 receptions, 101.2 yards, and 0.72 touchdowns. He accounted for 25.7% of the receptions. These are unheard-of numbers — not just for a season, but for multiple years, despite having rather poor QB play supporting him.
Bell projects as a prototypical X receiver in the NFL or as a Z (should he land on a team with an already established No. 1 option). The question surrounds his ceiling.
I’ve been a massive fan of Bell for dynasty for quite some time, and that confidence hasn’t wavered. Bell is a borderline first-round pick or early second in 2022 dynasty rookie drafts.
Bell is a route-running technician. There isn’t really a route he can’t run well — and not just with proficiency, but with nuance. His routes are loaded with head fakes, double-moves, jab steps, stutters, and shoulder rolls. You name it, Bell can do it.
Those routes and cognitive awareness have allowed him to win in man or zone coverage at all three levels of the field for his entire collegiate career. There was a reason Purdue tried to manufacture touches for him.
It’s what Bell does at the catch point that leaves you shaking your head and your jaw on the floor. What Bell can do when adjusting to the ball is simply mesmerizing. Watch some of his tape against Indiana (2019) and Notre Dame (2021), and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Bell not only has a solid catch radius, but he expands it based on his mid-air adjustments. At the catch, he squeezes the ball and is confident with his hands.
Bell is not a speedster, but he knows how to gain separation at all three levels of the play. He has a diverse and varied release package he blends into his routes. There aren’t a lot of holes in his game. There’s also a reason the Bateman comparisons come so easily. Bell will be a favorite pick of many fantasy managers in 2022. He was one of my favorite players when this cycle began and remains so after evaluating his film.
Bell will likely never be a Justin Jefferson-type player. He doesn’t project as a vertical threat, and his chunk plays came off double-moves — not raw speed. There’s more smoothness than suddenness. While I do believe he maximizes what he gets after the catch, it’s not due to blazing speed. If anything, speed is why he fell in the draft due to his poor NFL Combine performance.
Maybe I can nitpick his downfield blocking, but if I have to dig this far, it’s pretty clear Bell is good. The concern for Bell is the lack of ceiling due to his athletic traits and the perceived view of him in the NFL. As a likely second or even third-round pick, it’s unclear if Bell will be a perimeter, possession style receiver, or move towards the slot. Given the uncertainty, there are some risks. However, I’m still in on Bell as a dynasty prospect.
Bell’s injury history
Bell got rocked several times while at Purdue due to his QB putting him in danger. One of those came against Notre Dame this past year when Bell was carted off the field due to a concussion and placed in the protocol. He would miss the next game. It’s not that Bell has a propensity for head injuries, he just got lit up on a scary play.
Aside from that moment, Bell has a clean bill of health. Even if he was banged up (as he was against Northwestern), it didn’t matter — he still went out and played. There are no red flags.
Cleveland Browns select David Bell in the third round
The Cleveland Browns desperately needed receiver help. While Amari Cooper is great, he needs additional receivers around him. More importantly, Deshaun Watson needed additional receivers. While I am a fan of Donovan peoples-Jones, asking him to become the No. 2 might have been asking too much. Bell is a much-needed and welcome addition to the Browns’ passing attack.
With Cooper likely to see north of 25% of the targets, Bell can slide into a complementary role as an intermediate target. His body control mid-air is second to none and could easily become the No. 2 target for the Browns from Day 1.
Is he a home-run hitter? No. But given the volume Bell could see as the Browns are expected to run less than 12 personnel, this could be a fantastic opportunity.
Bell’s value will be based on Watson’s possible suspension. But when factoring in how good this offense could be when firing on all cylinders, Bell is an intriguing option in the early part of the second round, right behind the group of Christian Watson, Skyy Moore, Chris Olave, and perhaps Jahan Dotson.