2019 NFL Draft Profile: Fresno State S Mike Bell
A star on the back end of a strong Bulldogs defense last fall, how does the rangy Bell fit into a defense-heavy class?
Will leaving school early pay off for Bell?
Fresno State football’s rise to the top of the Mountain West required a lot of things to go right, including the emergence of unexpected contributors. Mike Bell didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, but he became an integral piece of one of the Group of 5’s best secondaries in 2018 before making the decision to try his hand at the NFL.
After showing that he could do a little bit of everything, with intriguing size for good measure, it seems now that he might be the biggest enigma among Fresno State’s draft hopefuls.
Bell has received high marks for his ability to anticipate, evidenced most clearly by the fact he had more than ten pass breakups (including three interceptions) in 2018. He also proved himself a sure tackler and a solid hitter, as well, which multiple draft writers believe could help win battles at the point of impact in pass defense.
That tackling ability extends to include his contributions as a run defender, which many believe is a net positive when you consider his tantalizing size, too. Jon Ledyard of The Draft Network, for instance, wrote that Bell “fills in a physical manner and timely fashion… [and is capable] of playing around the line of scrimmage or filling from deep.”
What will teams make of the discrepancy between a sub-par showing at the NFL Combine and a solid performance at Pro Day? Safeties who run a 4.8 40-yard dash don’t often last long in the pros, but he was able to improve that time to the mid-4.6 range according to the Fresno Bee. He also improved his vertical, but the lack of certainty about what his baseline athleticism actually is may scare some potential employers away.
There’s also some lingering questions about whether Bell’s anticipatory tendencies can be a double-edged sword. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com noted that “discipline from centerfield is a problem” for Bell, while Ledyard’s concern about speed led him to conclude that his “movement skills are good, [he] just lacks the elite burst and long speed to close down outside receivers”.
Bell might actually be the most divisive Fresno State prospect in some time. More so than any other Bulldog in this year’s class, there’s an outside chance that he sneaks into the back end of the third round, but it seems more likely that he’ll have to wait until the fourth or fifth for a team to pounce on his potential.