Andrew Berry thinks the Browns might have drafted one of the most sure-handed receivers of the draft class Friday at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.
David Bell was the Browns' final pick of Day 2 at 99th overall, and he could be a big one because of how reliable he proved to be across three seasons at Purdue. Bell had only 11 drops mixed with 232 receptions and had a drop rate of just 4.7 percent, one of the best in the nation.
When Bell can get his hands on a pass, he usually catches it. That's what stood out most to Berry and the Browns when they were evaluating him, and Berry, the Browns Executive Vice President and GM, certainly made it sound as though those skills could give Bell a big role in the offense as soon as the 2022 season begins.
"It probably starts really with just his hands," Berry said. "We thought he had some of the best hands in this draft class. He is also very savvy as a route runner, just very nuanced and polished and has the ability to separate."
Berry made it clear that he envisioned Bell as a player who can handle most snaps from the slot, where a big body, reliable hands and crisp route running is needed most. Bell fits the profile at 6-foot, 212-pounds and garnered plenty of experience at the position with the Boilermakers. He's capable of playing outside, too, although the Browns already have at least one player capable of filling that role with Amari Cooper.
Bell said he's studied Cooper since he was a college player in Alabama, and the two share similar traits as big receivers who have built their success on catching the football, avoiding drops and outmuscling defenders when the ball is in the air.
Cooper could be a great mentor for Bell, and it's possible that Bell is penciled in the spot behind Cooper on the depth chart if he performs well in training camp.
"(Cooper) had success in college," Bell said. "He had success when he was in Oakland and also in Dallas. I imagine he's going to have success now. I'm just trying to see what he's done to be successful up to this point so I can implement it into my game."
Bell was a First Team All-American last season at Purdue and topped 1,000 receiving yards twice in three seasons. The only year where he didn't eclipse that mark was the pandemic-shortened season in 2020. He constantly battled against the top competition in the Big Ten — including Northwestern product and Browns teammate CB Greg Newsome II — and might not need nearly as much time to acclimate to the tougher talent level in the NFL as most third-round picks.
The biggest reason, perhaps, why Bell was available that late in the draft was because of measurables at the Combine. He ran a below-average 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash, but Berry said the Browns didn't alter their evaluation on Bell because of it. A fast 40-yard time does not always define the talent of a receiver, and the Browns believe the production and quality tape Bell displayed from Purdue overrides any measurement shortfalls.
"Going in as we looked at David's profile, our expectation was not that he was going to come into the spring and run a 4.3," Berry said. "That is not why we drafted him. You have to go in knowing here are his areas of strengths and his skillset, and then the question becomes given what he does well and as you talk through it with your coaching staff, can we utilize those strengths where he can have an effective role?"
The Browns believe the answer will be "yes," and they believe it will show sooner rather than later.
"I think good receivers come in different shapes and sizes," Berry said, "and although David may not be the fastest player in the NFL, I think he has a number of compensating factors that will allow him to produce."