The Browns believe they drafted one of the most polished route-runners and smoothest pass-catchers of the 2022 NFL Draft class in David Bell, a third-round selection out of Purdue who will have an instant shot at carving a sizable role in the offense as a rookie.
Bell is being heralded as one of the Browns' top draft picks after he posted three consistent years in West Lafayette, where he topped 1,000 receiving yards in two seasons and constantly won battles against the top defensive backs in the Big Ten. He recorded only 11 drops among his 232 career receptions, and the Browns believe his traits will be a perfect fit in a passing game they've overhauled this offseason.
Just ask wide receivers coach/pass game coordinator Chad O'Shea.
"He really scored very high across all of our testing, whether it was a scout talking to him or whether it was myself talking to him or our tape evaluation from a coaching end or matched the personnel end," O'Shea said in a recent interview on Best Podcast Available. "We all felt very strongly as an organization about this football player."
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Bell has the college resume NFL evaluators gush over — he was a First Team All-American and Big Ten WR of the Year in 2021. He earned First Team All-Big Ten honors in each of his last two seasons, and he delivered an instant impact as a freshman in 2019, winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year. No receiver in the FBS had more receiving yards per game than Bell (101.2) in 2021.
So why was he available in the third round? It's a good question, and the answer likely stems from his Combine measurables.
Bell clocked 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash, but that didn't come as a surprise to the Browns. They could see on tape that Bell wasn't the fastest or more explosive receiver in the draft class, but those traits don't always define the talent of a receiver, especially a player like Bell who did nothing but find space and catch passes in a Power 5 conference.
"He's an exceptional route-runner that has the ability to separate versus tight coverage," O'Shea said, "and we believe that at the end of the day, it's going to come down to your ability to separate versus man coverage in this league on the money downs — on third down and in your situational football in the redzone. We identified him as being able to do that, and he did it at a level we thought was really impressive."
Bell's skills typically translate well to the slot receiver role, which normally requires precise route-running, field awareness and above-average hands. A large frame is a plus, too, and Bell (6-feet, 212 pounds) checks all the boxes.
Executive Vice President of Football Ops and GM Andrew Berry already highlighted the slot position as a top possibility for Bell in his press conference after he was drafted. Regardless of whether he takes the bulk of his snaps there as a rookie, it's apparent that the Browns have a detailed plan for how to use Bell and see how he can blossom into their offense.
"We've identified a way he can fit with us," O'Shea said, "and we have a clear vision for who he can be for us and where he can play."
No matter if Bell plays in the slot or outside, O'Shea and the Browns coaches believe he can instantly thrive as a rookie. He was a proven playmaker against some of the top competition in college football, and the expectation is for that to carry over quickly at the NFL level.
"His best games and some of his most productive days were versus excellent competition, so that told us a lot about him," O'Shea said. "The biggest thing about him and what swayed the vote was when you got this guy in person, he's awesome. He really was exceptional as far as the person and his motivation and his work ethic. We identified him as someone who could really be a fit for all the things Coach (Kevin Stefanski) talks about on a daily basis."