David Bell, Purdue WR | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Before DeAngelo Yancey in 2017, the Purdue Boilermakers hadn’t seen a wide receiver drafted to the NFL since 2001. For a program that boasted two first-round pass catchers in the 1970s, it presented a significant downturn in professional production. However, their production line is in motion once again. In the last year, Rondale Moore was a second-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals. Ahead of the upcoming college football season, Purdue WR David Bell is ready to state his case as one of the best pass catchers in the 2022 NFL Draft class.

David Bell NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Wide Receiver
  • School: Purdue
  • Current Year: Junior
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 205 pounds

David Bell Scouting Report

Should we talk about the Purdue WR in the same context as Chris Olave, Drake London, and Treylon Burks as one of the best in the 2022 NFL Draft class? Bell has yet to receive that level of attention, but it’s about time he did.

In the interest of full transparency, I didn’t list him in the top 10 wide receivers in the class earlier this year. It’s only as I’ve come to do Bell’s scouting report and got a good, hard look at his film that he’s shot up in my estimation. So, what have I seen that’s changed my mind?

Bell’s athleticism and physicality

Let’s start with athleticism. Bell might not be the fastest in a foot race, but he’s got impressive long speed, which can help take the top off a defense. In addition, the Purdue WR has demonstrated excellent burst, with his speed release helping him win at the line of scrimmage. Bell also exhibits a good change-of-direction ability, which shows in his route running and making defenders miss in the open field. 

Finally — and most impressively — from an athletic standpoint, Bell has exceptional body control. There are multiple examples on film where he contorts his body to make a catch that appears impossible. The Purdue WR displays this ability both in the open field and in the end zone. Bell is a dangerous threat at all three levels of the field. 

When evaluating wide receivers, one important thing is physicality, and Bell is as physical as they come. He puts this to good use in contested-catch situations, where he routinely comes down with the ball. There were several examples of him snatching the ball away from the defensive back. Additionally, his physicality helps him gain additional yardage, as he is rarely taken down on the first contact.

Furthermore, Bell’s physicality allows him to be a willing and able blocker downfield despite some technical issues. 

Areas for improvement

At this moment in time, it’s difficult to poke holes in Bell’s scouting report.

Would I like to see him improve his technique as a blocker? Yes. Is that enough to warrant serious concern? No. 

In the games studied, he wasn’t routinely tasked with overcoming press coverage, so it isn’t easy to ascertain how well he will fare against more athletic defensive backs in the NFL when he can’t rely solely on speed to win off the line. Furthermore, he hasn’t been asked to run a particularly complex route tree at Purdue. So again, that makes evaluating that area of his game problematic. 

Bell’s Player Profile

Although it probably isn’t accurate to describe Bell as “under the radar” in the 2022 NFL Draft class, he certainly doesn’t receive the same adoration as Ohio State’s wide receiver duo or even Arkansas pass catcher Treylon Burks. However, the Purdue pass catcher has a footballing past rich with success, statistics, and accolades.

The Indianapolis native was a prolific player at Warren Central High School. During his days at Warren, he amassed over 4,400 yards and 55 touchdowns. During his senior season alone, he reeled in 1,542 yards and 22 touchdowns from 85 receptions.

As he led Warren to a Class 6A state title in his senior season, Bell was named the 2018 Gatorade State Player of the Year. Additionally, the Indianapolis Star named him the Male Athlete of the Year and the Marion County Athlete of the Year.

“Athlete” was a fitting description for Bell

In addition to the success on the football field, Bell led the Warren basketball team to a state championship title as a junior. Winning was a way of life during his high school career.

College football programs had taken notice of the young pass catcher. Bell received his first offer (Indiana) even before the start of his sophomore season. Plenty more followed (according to 247 Sports), receiving offers from nearly 20 teams. Although he took visits to Penn State and Indiana and subsequently teased Ohio State as a destination on announcing his decision, multiple factors led him to the Boilermakers.

“I love the offense there,” Bell told reporters. There were also personal reasons to choose Purdue. “I really wanted to be close to my grandma. I wanted her to come to all of my games.”

Bell’s career at Purdue

The phrase “immediate impact” is routinely overused when describing the transition from high school to college football. However, for the new Purdue WR, it was perfectly accurate. On his first reception for the Boilermakers, Bell secured a 49-yard touchdown. Just one week later, he took 4 receptions for 82 yards against Vanderbilt. Three weeks later against Minnesota, he secured his first of six games of 100+ yards.

Bell’s next four games that broke the century mark earned him Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors, including on back-to-back weekends against Maryland and Iowa. The prolific Purdue pass catcher finished his freshman campaign with 136 yards and a touchdown against Indiana. Ending the year with 1,035 yards and 7 touchdowns, Bell was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year while earning first-team Freshman All-American honors from the Associated Press.

Although the shortened 2020 college football season limited him to six games, Bell still produced four 100-plus-yard games. He opened the season in style with an imposing 121 yards and 3 touchdowns from a season-high 13 receptions against Iowa. Although he wouldn’t get near his career-high 197 yards in 2020, Bell did finish the season with a season-high 132 yards against Nebraska. With a conference-high 8 touchdowns last season, Bell earned first-team All-Big Ten recognition.

For all of Bell’s success over the last two years, the Purdue spotlight has very much shone on Rondale Moore. Despite towering over his diminutive teammate, Bell has been somewhat in the shadow. In the upcoming college football season, however, he’s primed to emerge and take center stage. Equaling his former Purdue WR teammate as a second-round pick is probable, while something even more remarkable is possible.

 

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter @ojhodgkinson.

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