To say that Cleveland was in need of some new receiver help is not news to anyone in the AFC North. Before the Deshaun Watson trade, the Browns were earmarked to take a blue-chipper with their 13th pick in the first round.
Instead, GM Andrew Berry packaged that pick in the trade. He then traded down from the #44 slot in the second round and suddenly had three picks in Round 3. With their final pick in this round at #99, Cleveland took WR David Bell of Purdue.
Going into 2022, the offense was suddenly without a slot guy with OBJ gone and to some degree Jarvis Landry. Last year’s rookie Anthony Schwartz’s place on this offense is still up in the air, but slot is certainly a possibility. The outside positions are set with Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones. That leaves the slot for the taking.
Bell could very well be that player.
The big city is what Bell has always known growing up in Indianapolis. He went to Warren Central High School which has an enrollment of 3,736 students. When you made the varsity of a team with that many students, it is certainly an accomplishment.
Bell (6’-1”, 205 pounds) also played for Warren Central’s basketball team which went undefeated and won the Class 4A State Championship. He averaged 11.8 points per game and 6.5 rebounds. During Bell’s three years on the hardcourt Warren Central had gone 76-6.
Back on the gridiron, Bell wrapped up his junior football season with 52 catches for 1,075 yards and 11 touchdowns in 11 games helping lead Warren Central to a 7-4 overall record and a Class 6A sectional championship appearance.
As a senior, he caught a career-high 85 passes for 1,542 yards with 22 touchdowns and this time Warren Central was 6A State Champs. For his three-year football career, he was named to the All-Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference Team, All-Marion County Team, Indiana First Team All-State, and Max Preps All-American honors.
At season’s end of his senior year, he was selected the 2019 Marion County Athlete of the Year by the Indianapolis Star plus named the Indiana Gatorade Football Player of the Year. He also played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
In all during Bell’s playing time, Warren Central had captured three sectionals, one regional, a semi-state plus won one 6A title.
Bell was ranked the Number 1 football player in Indiana by rivals.com and 17th in the country.
There were plenty of schools who wanted Bell on their football team. Here goes: Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Purdue, Missouri, Syracuse, Minnesota, Ohio State, Louisville, Michigan, Indiana, Penn State, Iowa, Cincinnati, Bowling Green, Nebraska, Toledo and Notre Dame.
His short list included Indiana, Penn State, Purdue, Iowa and Ohio State. For a while, Indiana and Penn State seemed to be the front-runners. One thing Bell did know: he needed to be in the Big 10 conference. Growing up, those schools were always on his television each week. His short list included only schools from this conference. He liked the conference for its physicality and reputation for creating a lot of NFL talent at the receiver position.
Bell made his commitment to Purdue public at the All-American Bowl. His reasoning was several, including head coach Jeff Brohm’s offense, but also this was close to home. His grandmother was handicapped and the close proximity was an advantage for her to be able to attend games.
And the Purdue Boilermakers’ offense threw the ball around enough to give plenty of pass catchers a chance to gain experience and excel.
At the time, Brohm stated on The Herald Bulletin about getting a blue-chip receiver such as Bell:
“It’s an important position. Of course in our offense, we want to make sure we get guys who love football and want to make plays and want to do something special.”
Academics for Bell was a strong suit. He decided to further his educational pursuit in accounting while he suited up for Purdue.
Boilermakers and haymakers
The Purdue offense is a wide-open style that spreads the ball around. This allows receivers to get plenty of catches and build a very good resume for the next level. After all, a player is categorized on their catches, yardage gained, touchdowns and per catch average.
Plus, Bell is a very good downfield blocker.
Coach Brohm played Bell a lot his freshman campaign instead of red shirting the youngster. Bell had 86 receptions - unheard of results for a freshman player. Those receptions resulted in 1,035 yards with seven touchdowns. He also scored a touchdown on a jet sweep. He was subsequently named Second Team All-Big 10 and was elected Big 10 Freshman of the Year on a squad that went 4-8-0.
The following season was a COVID year with a shortened season. The Big 10 voted to disband the season, then voted to begin their football year late. Purdue played just six games and finished 2-4-0. Bell’s stats were 53 receptions for 625 yards and eight touchdowns.
2021 was a very good season for Purdue as they finished their year 9-4-0. They knocked off Number 2 Iowa 24-7 as well as Number 3 Michigan State 40-29 and were one game out of first place in the Big 10 Western Division.
Bell had his best season to date with 93 receptions for 1,286 yards with six touchdowns. He also had 39 rushing yards on three carries. In his three years at Purdue, he had 29 starts.
To say that Bell shined while playing for Purdue is an understatement. But in all this glory and success, there was a problem.
He ran a 4.65 in the 40.
Considered a playmaker, suddenly he was labeled as a slow playmaker. Which may be okay playing Illinois or Nebraska or Rutgers. But that speed in the NFL just isn’t going to cut it for a receiver.
And suddenly, David Bell was tagged - as being too slow.
Never mind that Jerry Rice ran a 4.71 back in the day. Or Don Hutson’s 4.85. Anyone recall that Raymond Berry ran a 4.8? Cooper Kupp’s best time is 4.62. Crikey, even Jarvis Landry ran a 4.65.
Somehow, we live in a world where receivers and defensive backs must have a 2 or 3 or 4 behind the period mark.
Projected as a second rounder before his 40 time was announced, suddenly his draft status dropped two rounds. Cleveland selected Bell with the 99th pick in the third round which just happens to be six slots from the fourth round.
The Cleveland Browns pick Purdue WR David Bell at No. 99 overall.— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 30, 2022
FORTY-ONE contested catches since 2018 (1st among Power Five WRs) pic.twitter.com/grYecUAyPZ
So, one might say that the Browns got a steal with selecting Bell.
We will see.