Vonn Bell, S
School: Ohio State | Conference: Big Ten
College Experience: Junior | Age: 22
Height / Weight: 5-11 / 199 lbs
Projected Draft Status: Mid-First to Mid-Second
NFL Comparison: Malcolm Jenkins
Vonn Bell would be a surefire first-round pick if he was two inches and 20 pounds bigger. Unfortunately, he's on the small side for a safety, and he doesn't have elite speed to help make up for the size deficiency. He officially measured at 5-foot-11 and 199 pounds at the Combine, and 203 pounds at his Pro Day, but he looks considerably smaller on film.
Even without ideal size, Bell has plenty to offer and might very well end up a first-round pick. He's one of the best coverage safeties in the draft and has top-notch instincts, seemingly always putting himself in position to make a play. He picked off six passes in 2014, but his interception numbers in the NFL won't be gaudy because he's not a huge risk-taker. The two interceptions and nine pass breakups he was credited for in 2015 are more in line with what to expect from Bell, who doesn't get burned often and takes his role as the last line of defense seriously.
- Bell is a very smart player. He took very few risks at Ohio State, and that discipline will serve him well in the NFL, where players are a notch faster, stronger and quicker.
- He absolutely dominated in the game against Hawaii, which doesn't mean a whole lot, considering it's Hawaii vs. Ohio State, but it's a good sign that he took advantage of the lower level of competition. He successfully defended much bigger pass-catchers (including 6-foot-6 Davasyia Hagger), picked off a pass that he had no business intercepting — even though he uncharacteristically dropped two other interceptions — and he picked up a bouncing fumble and ran it back for a score.
- While I certainly wouldn't call him an enforcer, he's got some pop and lays the occasional big hit. He also plays with some swagger, which is something you like to see out of a safety.
- His Pro Day 40-time (4.51s) suggests he has moderate speed, but his game footage shows a player with excellent sideline-to-sideline speed and closing speed. Just watch him come from nowhere to chase down Maryland quarterback Perry Hills to save a touchdown here. For context, there was less than a minute left in the half, and Bell's tackle put the pressure on Maryland to score quickly. They did score on the next play, but that's irrelevant for this exercise.
- His tackling technique isn't perfect, but it's well above average for a college safety. There aren't a lot of instances of him going high on a receiver, which bodes well for his NFL career, and he does a great job of taking out ball-carriers' legs.
- The size hurts him. He doesn't look 5-foot-11, and he certainly doesn't look anywhere near 200 pounds, so maybe he's bulking up? But if I had to guess, without seeing his official measurements, I'd put his playing size around 5-foot-10, 185 pounds.
- One thing you really want out of a smaller player is leaping ability, which can help compensate for his deficiency on jump balls. Bell doesn't have that. He clocked just a 30.5-inch vertical at his Pro Day, which would have been tied for dead last among all defensive backs at the Combine.
- His hands are good, but they aren't great. He made a few difficult interceptions in college, but he also missed a few he should have made.
- Bell isn't always willing to get physical with a big running back charging at him. That's likely a result of his size, but the gap in physicality is only going to get worse when he gets to the NFL.
- His production in college was respectable, but the numbers aren't eye-popping. It's also mildly concerning that both his interception and tackling numbers dropped considerably from 2014 to 2015.
How He Would Fit on the Redskins
I like the fit, but I don't love it. Bell would certainly improve the Redskins' safety situation, and he could be an immediate contributor on special teams even if he didn't start from Week 1. But considering where Bell is likely to be drafted, Washington would be better served looking elsewhere. If somebody like the Seattle Seahawks or Denver Broncos were to draft him late in the first round, I'd love the fit — their defenses are so strong that he wouldn't be expected to handle an enormous role for the duration of his rookie season. The Redskins, however, need too much help elsewhere and I don't see Bell as the kind of safety who can dramatically elevate an entire secondary.
All that said, if Bell is around when the Redskins pick at No. 53, I'd snag him in a heartbeat, especially with the addition of Josh Norman. Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Chris Culliver and DeAngelo Hall bring enough firepower to the secondary that Bell's flaws can be somewhat masked, especially if he's not expected to be a major contributor right away, which he would be as a first-rounder. I predict he'll still struggle as a rookie, but if I'm Scot McCloughan, I'm totally content with the value in the mid-to-late second round.