Possibly the best safety heading into the 2016 NFL Draft, Vonn Bell is getting quite a lot of interest after three very good years at Ohio State. The New England Patriots, New York Giants, New York Jets and Carolina Panthers seem to be standing on the first line of interested parties.
Bell is ranked as the first or second best safety on most mocks, which should mean he gets taken near the end of the first round, although there are those who think he can fall to the second round. It does make sense. Bell is solid all around and seems like someone who is ready to play in the NFL right away, but most don’t see him as a special player with some size and physicality issues, which means that taking him in the first round could be a bit of a reach.
Bell was selected by some media outlets to be a first-team All-American last season, although he might have been better in 2014. Despite a lot of interest from SEC teams, he prefered going to Columbus and play for Urban Meyer. In his freshman season (2013) he was mostly used as a nickel cornerback, but was moved to starting safety next season, finishing with 91 tackles and six interceptions as the Buckeyes won the national championship. He finished with 65 tackles and two interceptions (one for a touchdown) in 2015 before declaring for the draft.
Bell has excellent instincts and reads the field very well, while reacting quickly to developing plays. The problem for him is he has to stay in front of the play. He’s not lightning fast and isn’t big enough in the eyes of some. He knows how to corral receivers into areas he’s more comfortable in, and again, is simply fantastic when it comes to reading the pass and play, combined with timing and great hands to either intercept or simply disrupt the play.
Like with most players, it’s a matter of pluses and minuses and seeing what comes out as the more decisive factor in the complete package. Speed and his sometimes weak tackling are an issue, but he can make up for the first part with positioning and his high defensive IQ, while tackling can be improved with some bulking up and the right kind of NFL development. The Giants pick 10th (too high) and 40th (sounds right); Patriots have both the 29th and 30th picks in the second round, which might be a bit late for Bell; Jets have the 20th and 51st overall picks; Panthers have the 30th and 61st overall picks. It’s highly unlikely Bell goes beyond the 45th.