Florida A&M safety Markquese Bell has endured his fair share of adversity on his way to the 2022 NFL Draft. Through the ups and downs of his football career, the physical playmaker has emerged as one of the top FCS and HBCU prospects in this class. Bell’s scouting report reveals multiple reasons to be optimistic that he’ll be the Rattlers’ first player selected in the NFL’s annual selection event since 2013.
Markquese Bell NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Safety
- School: Florida A&M
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’2 2/8″
- Weight: 200 pounds
- Wingspan: 76 4/8″
- Arms: 33″
- Hand: 9 4/8″
Markquese Bell Scouting Report
With a lack of access to Florida A&M All-22 film, Bell’s scouting report has been constructed using broadcast footage from the 2021 college football season. When film becomes available, it will be updated and filled out with more intricate technical detail.
The 2022 NFL Draft class possesses a mixture of impressive safety talent and also some exciting prospects from the FCS level. Florida A&M safety Bell treads the tightrope between both of those. He’s one of the top FCS prospects while showcasing talent that makes him an intriguing safety talent in this class.
The first element of Bell’s scouting report is his size. Verified at the NFLPA Bowl, the Florida A&M safety measures in at over 6’2″ and 200 pounds. Importantly, and evident from his play for the Rattlers, Bell has impressive length for his size. His arms measured at 33″ during the NFLPA Bowl.
An impressive coverage safety who excels in run support
This length has allowed Bell to be productive at the college level. He’s adept at using his long limbs to be disruptive at the catch point.
A former high jump champion, the Florida A&M safety combines length with vertical explosion to be impressive in this regard. Additionally, in coverage, Bell appears to possess excellent ball-tracking skills, perhaps indicative of his high school experience as a wide receiver.
From an athletic standpoint, Bell appears to possess the requisite fluidity to be successful when tasked with man coverage. He also demonstrates decent straight-line speed for his size. This athletic ability also allows him to be a dominant run defender, the area of his scouting report which is the most tantalizing.
Bell thrives against the run. He’s a ferocious downhill run defender who isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder and hit with jolting physicality. The Florida A&M safety closes with impressive quickness, and his length allows him to wrap up and bring down the ball carrier on a consistent basis.
Areas for improvement
With his incredible talent in run support and impressive coverage ability, Bell presents as an alluring prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. Currently the 123rd overall prospect on Pro Football Network’s consensus big board, the Florida A&M safety should hear his name called early on Day 3. However, Bell’s scouting report does show some areas of improvement.
Bell could look to add a little bulk before hitting the NFL field. He possesses a slender build for the physicality that he plays the game with. The Florida A&M safety has the frame to add a little weight which will help his durability at the next level.
While aggression is his calling card, it can also be his downfall. Particularly in coverage, Bell’s desire to make a hard-hitting big play can result in him giving up explosive plays. As a run defender, he can be prone to be flying in rather than taking a measured approach to tackling.
Although he showcases awareness and football intelligence, this is an area where Bell can refine his skill set. He can be guilty of focusing on the backfield, losing his responsibility in coverage, and therefore, giving up chunk plays that will be punished at the NFL level.
Bell’s Player Profile
When Bruce Hepburn was selected out of Florida A&M in the 2013 NFL Draft, Bell was just a freshman at Bridgeton High School. The New Jersey native was yet to make a name for himself. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t take long until he was attracting the attention of college football programs.
Eventually a four-star recruit in the 2017 class, Bell’s first offer came from Michigan in the summer of 2015. That season, he would be named the South Jersey Times Offensive Player of the Year after securing 792 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. A true two-way player, Bell also impressed in the defensive backfield.
Although he continued to thrive as an offensive standout during his senior season, whenever presented with a national opportunity, Bell would showcase his skill set at safety. A state champion in the high jump, Bell’s athletic prowess to play either position at the next level was evident. Subsequently, he was tabbed with the “athlete” moniker in that 2017 class. Meanwhile, he was tabbed as a four-star recruit and the third-best player in New Jersey.
An Under Armour All-American, Bell received offers from the top college football programs across the country. Yet, by the end of his senior season, he’d narrow it down to two teams. In January 2017, Bell announced his intention to commit to Maryland over fellow finalist Ohio State.
Bell’s college football career
Bell enrolled at Maryland with high expectations for his freshman season. However, the enforcing safety would never step foot on the field for the Terrapins. The highly regarded recruit was suspended by the program for an undisclosed violation of code of conduct. He would ultimately leave the program.
Although he left the program under a cloud, it’s a testament to Bell’s character that he did so without any ill-feeling from the coaching staff.
“I think Markquese is an outstanding young man and I wish him nothing but the best moving forward,” commented then-Maryland coach D.J. Durkin at the time of his departure.
Taking the JUCO route
With his college career hanging in the balance — and his dreams of the NFL Draft appearing distant — Bell headed to Coffeyville Community College in Kansas to continue his football journey. While it gave him the opportunity to prove productive on the field, with 55 tackles and 2 interceptions during the 2018 season, it was the off-field influence that would leave a lasting impression.
“Being there humbles you,” Bell said of his time at Coffeyville during an interview with Tallahassee.com. “I had it made. Then to detour and go JUCO opens your eyes. Coffeyville is a small town and everybody knows everybody. It keeps you out of trouble. You build strong relationships with people. You’re part of a big family.”
Transferring to play safety at Florida A&M
While the relationships forged at Coffeyville helped get his career back on track, it was a friendship from his former stop that led him to Florida A&M. Following his successful JUCO season, Bell became a three-star recruit who attracted attention from Nebraska and South Carolina to play FBS football. However, former Maryland teammate Elijah Daniels helped him decide his next stop.
“Daniels told me if you’re going to pick an HBCU, this should be the one,” Bell said. “We’re on the up right now. I’m glad to be playing with him. We’re really close. My first few weeks here, I stayed with him. His family took really good care of me.”
Bell’s NFL Draft ascension
Two years after being a highly rated high school recruit, Bell’s ascension to 2022 NFL Draft prospect began at Florida A&M in 2019. Stunning performances against Southern and SC State helped establish him as a ball-hawking safety with unerring physicality. His 2019 season totals of 61 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 9 pass breakups, and 5 interceptions helped the Florida A&M safety earn first-team All-MEAC honors and national attention.
With the Rattlers opting to cancel their 2020 season due to the global situation, Bell’s opportunity to build momentum diminished. However, his place in the national consciousness as one of the top FCS and HBCU prospects did not. Bell entered the 2021 season on multiple watchlists for college football all-star games.
The Florida A&M safety had a phenomenal final season. Showcasing his ferocity, he logged four games with 10+ tackles. Following a 15-tackle, 1-sack, and 1-forced fumble performance against South Florida, Bell was named the Senior Bowl Defensive Player of the Week. A three-time SWAC Defensive Player of the Week, he earned FCS All-American honors after registering 95 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 5 forced fumbles, and 1 interception in 2021.
As a result of his performances, Bell earned an invite to the NFLPA Bowl in Pasadena. There, he showcased special-teams ability and his ferocity as a tackler. The Florida A&M safety will also get to demonstrate his athletic ability with an invite to the NFL Combine. Currently an early Day 3 prospect on the PFN consensus big board, Bell is in a great position to be the first Rattler drafted since 2013.