INDIANAPOLIS — David Bell didn't need much time to think of his response Thursday when he was asked to name the toughest defensive back he's ever faced.
"Greg Newsome, hands down," said Bell, a Purdue wide receiver at the NFL Combine who is likely to be drafted in the early rounds of the 2022 NFL draft. "He definitely gave me the most trouble."
Newsome was the Browns' first-round pick in 2021 after he became one of the best corners in the Big Ten at Northwestern, where he totaled 25 pass breakups in 21 games. He was a reliable defender in his rookie season with the Browns and tallied nine pass breakups in 12 games.
Bell, meanwhile, is looking to possibly crack an early-round draft selection himself after posting 1,286 yards and six touchdowns with the Boilermakers last season. He's not quite regarded as a prospect in the same realm as Treylon Burks, Drake London or Garrett Wilson — the top-ranked receivers of the class — but is still likely to be within the top 10 receivers picked off the board.
So how did Bell do against Newsome? The battle between them happened on Nov. 14 in 2020, and it was a good one — Bell caught nine passes for 78 yards, and Newsome collected two pass breakups. Even though Bell nearly hit double-digits in receptions, Newsome did a quality job of limiting his gains and restricting separation, which is likely where Bell remembers his frustrations.
"He was just patient," Bell said. "At that time, I didn't play against a patient DB. So going up against him, it was definitely something new for me, and the things that I usually do to win against DBs, it didn't really work on him. So that's definitely a game that, even up to this day, I still watch.
"It still haunts me that I let one slip away."
Head Coach Kevin Stefanski speaks at his media availability at the 2022 NFL Combine in Indianapolis Indiana
Bell is likely to face Newsome again at some point in his career — either in an NFL game or, perhaps, as his own teammate.
The Browns will certainly be interested in Bell after they've already met with several of the other top receivers of the draft class. Drafting a receiver, however, isn't a guarantee at pick No. 13 for the Browns, who also have needs at defensive tackle and defensive end. Bell appears more likely to land as a late first-round pick or possibly be drafted on Day 2, where he'd still be an appealing choice for the Browns.
His steady feet and route-running abilities, two of his best traits according to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, should help him transition smoothly to the NFL level. Those traits are developed when a receiver is patient and isn't too quick to immediately burst into their route, but rather use an extra juke or two to disorient the footwork of the defender.
That lesson to Bell was taught by Newsome.
"(I learned) that I have to be patient," he said when asked what he learned from the game. "At first, I would just try to get up to their toes and do a move, but now I understand that you have to be patient yourself and move them laterally and change the pace."