INDIANAPOLIS – Numbers matter.
That’s why David Bell is imploring those who hold his immediate future in their hands to pay attention to certain numbers, while cutting him some slack for another that tends to overshadow the others.
Those that matter most to the Warren Central High School and Purdue product:
- 93 receptions, 1,286 yards and six touchdowns for the Boilermakers last season, when he was the undeniable post-Rondale Moore focal point of the offense.
- 101.6 yards per game and 12.7 per catch during his 29-career in West Lafayette.
- At least six receptions in 24 games and at least 100 yards on 17 occasions.
- Two games in 2021 when he was virtually unstoppable: 11 catches for 240 yards and one TD at Iowa; 11 for 217 and one TD against Michigan State.
“Consistency,” Bell said after attending Monday’s Local Pro Day at the Indianapolis Colts’ indoor practice facility. “Every receiver has their minuses and pluses.”
“I definitely have a plus in catching, contested catching, being able to play inside and outside and showing up in the big games,” he added.
The minus? His 40 time.
That’s the number that has pestered Bell throughout the pre-draft process and might impact how long his name remains available during the April 28-30 NFL draft.
At the NFL Scouting Combine in February, 25 wide receivers were clocked in 4.58 or better in the much-hyped 40-yard dash. Bell cracked the electric eye at 4.65.
At what amounted to a do-over at his Pro Day in West Lafayette, he turned in a 4.71.
For perspective, Michael Pittman Jr., the leader of the Colts’ receivers room and a 2020 second-round pick, ran a 4.52 at the Combine. Dezmon Patmon, a sixth-round pick, hit 4.48. In 2019, Parris Campbell, another second-round pick, led all wideouts with a 4.31. Ashton Dulin, who would be signed as an undrafted rookie, brought a 4.43 with him.
Whenever Bell has had the opportunity to sit and chat with NFL talent evaluators – those who will steer the next phase of his football career – he’ has had to discuss his speed. Or lack of it.
“Definitely,” he said. “That’s definitely the biggest question. Unfortunately, I didn’t perform like I wanted to perform, but it’s something I’ve been working on since the Pro Days, since the Combine, just to get as fast as I can.”
In the end, Bell’s speed is what it is. And he knows it.
“I’ve never been one of the fastest and that’s what a lot of people know on film,” he said. “I’m not the fastest and that’s just not part of my game.”
Again, Bell points to his 29-game career at Purdue and his ability to compensate for being a tick slower than is ideal by getting in and out of his breaks, beating press coverage and finding holes in zones.
Monday was the last opportunity to showcase those skills on the field before the draft, but Bell opted to stand and watch while 40 others went through their various position drills.
“It was just something me and my agent discussed,” he said, adding their decision hinged on avoiding the risk of injury.
However, it was hardly a missed opportunity.
At one point, Bell chatted with Colts’ position coach Reggie Wayne. After the workout, the two would share a deeper get-to-know-you session.
“Definitely watched him as a kid,” Bell said, “and seeing him in person is definitely an amazing experience.”
Perhaps more important, Bell was able to talk with Colts’ general manager Chris Ballard as they strolled off the field.
“He was over there just giving me a few nuggets of success to make sure I have everything in line when I go to whichever team I get drafted to, to make sure I get into a routine,” he said. “He was just picking my brain to see what I was about.”
“It’s definitely important just building a relationship with those guys and even though I didn’t work out today, just give them an opportunity to see what type of person I am.”
There’s no question a college-to-the-pros transition awaits Bell. The uncertainty is how soon that occurs.
ESPN’s Todd McShay has 17 receivers among his top 106 players. Bell isn’t among them.
And he didn’t crack the top 15 wideouts of ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. Another ESPN draft analyst, Jordan Reid, has projected Bell to Detroit late in the third round as the 16th receiver off the board.
Pro Football Focus ranks the 6’2″, 205-pound Bell as the 110th-best draft prospect and 17th in a ridiculously deep receiver class. They project late third round draft entry.
The Colts are expected to focus on receiver with their early picks – 42nd (round 2) or 73rd overall (round 3) – but they will have to see who is left. As many as six wideouts could be selected in round 1. The top-tier prospects: USC’s Drake London, Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, Alabama’s Jameson Williams, Arkansas’s Treylon Burks and Jahan Dotson of Penn State, Skyy Moore of Western Michigan, Christian Watson of North Dakota State and George Pickens of Georgia.
“There’s definitely a lot of great receivers . . . the receivers from Ohio State (and) the Big Ten itself,” Bell said. “But I think I’m one of the best receivers in this class.”
Bell didn’t need GPS assistance to find his way to the Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance Football Center.
He was raised roughly 20 minutes away. And even though he grew up a New York Giants fan, Bell said he wouldn’t mind switching allegiances.
“It would definitely mean a lot being 20 minutes from the facility, friends and family being able to come watch me,” he said. “I know my grandmother would be very excited. She wouldn’t have to get on numerous planes to come watch me. She could just take a 20-minute drive downtown and see me play every Sunday.”
Prior to emerging as a playmaker for the Boilermakers, Bell displayed similar skills at Warren Central. He was a catalyst for the Warriors 2018 Class 6A state champions with 85 catches, 1,542 yards and 22 TDs as a senior.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.