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2016 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Vonn Bell

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The bell tolls for any ball in his path.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

This 2016 draft class is top-heavy with many secondary studs. Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Ramsey are perhaps some of the best secondary prospects in years. You've also got guys like Mackenzie Alexander and Tre'Davious White, who could easily garner a top-20 selection. That means that guys like Vonn Bell, arguably the draft's biggest playmaker, are being overshadowed.

Player in a Paragraph

Bell's name should be listed next to the work 'playmaker' in the dictionary, because that's exactly what he does best. He also happens to strike at the best of times, making his plays when they count the most.

Sometimes guys turn out to be what we were told they were, and sometimes they’re not. He’s probably a little bit more than what we were told he was. -Urban Meyer


His end-zone interception in the fourth quarter of last year's Sugar Bowl is arguably his best play yet. Bell also recorded picks in last year's Big Ten title game, and snatched a pick in the Orange Bowl as a true freshman. This guy has a knack for making plays, and he's exactly the kind of player you want on your team.

Context

Bell was a five-star recruit, and was considered Ohio State's "crown jewel" when he was signed in 2013. As you know, some prized recruits just don't turn out as they were hyped to be. Things seemed to be going that way for Bell when he couldn't find a role in his freshman season and remained on the bench for his sophomore campaign. But he really turned it around during Ohio State's championship run, as he found his footing and grew into the defensive force that he is today. Bell is now an every-down starter and is one of the most prized pieces of the Buckeyes' defense.

Stats

Defense & Fumbles

Data Coverage (*=bowl stats included)
Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2013 Ohio State Big Ten FR DB 8 16 3 19 1.0 0.0 1 4 4.0 0 0 0 0
*2014 Ohio State Big Ten SO DB 15 56 35 91 2.0 1.0 6 29 4.8 0 6 1 0
2015 Ohio State Big Ten JR S 12 41 22 63 1.0 0.0 2 16 8.0 1 9 1 0
Career Ohio State 113 60 173 4.0 1.0 9 49 5.4 1 15 2 0

sports-reference.com

As you can see, Bell gets the ball in his hands a lot, even as a defender. Before moving from nickel corner to safety, Bell was tied with another top prospect, Eli Apple, for most total pass break-ups, with 13. Bell also gets to the person carrying the ball a lot too, as his 111 total tackles over his first two seasons was good for third-most on the Buckeyes.

But the tape is really needed to add a new dimension to these stats.

The Tape

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via GIPHY

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

As you can see, I wasn't playing around about Bell being a difference maker. What the tape also doesn't show is that he is a very authoritative tackler. He goes for the waist, often body first, to bring down the runner.

Analysis

When I'm grading a safety, I'm looking for a few things to stand out. In particular, playmaking ability is a must. If any player is going to be making a big play on defense, it's probably the safety. Ravens' fans can attest to this since they saw Ed Reed make so many big plays over the years. I want the guy who shows up when the ball is in the air, and so do general managers. Bell definitely checks out here.

Another thing I want to see is how much of the field can they cover. It's not all about blazing speed, but rather discipline and knowing where the ball is going to be. I haven't seen enough tape to say that Bell can cover the entire field, like an outfielder, but I've seen enough to say that he is disciplined in attacking the run game, and knows how to stay back and fill the gaps, finding the right point to attack at.

My ideal safety has to be tough too, and I think Bell fits that description. He's hard-nosed, a brutal, head-first tackler, and he wants to get to the ball no matter what. Safeties get hit a lot, and I want my guy to hit back even harder. The perfect safety also has good intelligence, and knows what the receiver is going to do and where the quarterback is throwing it. I think it's fair to say that based on the sheer amount of picks he's got, Bell knows a thing or two about how to read a quarterback and react in coverage.

The main concern I have about Bell is his size. I don't see him line up in the middle of the field that much, and his 5'10" frame could be a big mismatch in the slot against guys like Rob Gronkowski, Gary Barnidge, and some taller receivers. However, this might not be a big deal at all, depending on how he is used. Ed Reed was only 5' 11", and often sat deep in the backfield, stalking the quarterback from afar. The Ravens also have the 6' 1" Will Hill, who could shadow some of the bigger pass catchers in the league.

Where is he going in the draft?

That's a tough question. We're a while away from April's draft, and the boards are still volatile. Plus, no one is saying that Vonn won't return to Ohio State for his senior year. CBS Sports has him pegged as their 46th overall prospect, with a projected first or second round selection. Drafttek has Bell as the 31st best prospect on their big board, and WalterFootball says he's the ninth-best safety in this class.


Should the Ravens pick him?

There's no right answer to this question. It all depends on value, especially with the immense talent at safety this year. Bell isn't going to be picked with the Ravens' first-rounder, but he would be a great second-rounder. Ozzie might even trade down and land us multiple second round picks. If the Ravens go elsewhere other than safety in the first, I wouldn't be complaining if Bell was coming to Baltimore in the second.