NAME: Mike Bell
SCHOOL: Fresno State
CONFERENCE: Mountain West
CLASS: RS Junior
JERSEY: No. 4
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star recruit
WT: 205 lbs
Range – Average range. Doesn’t get out of the blocks particularly fast, but long strides cover a decent amount of ground. Don’t think he can play single-high and be impactful in the NFL, but can work in 2-high shells just fine. Movement skills are good, just lacks the elite burst and long speed to close down outside receivers from a center-fielding position.
Ball Skills – Consistently gets up and competes for the football at catch points. Has the length and strength to win high-point battles. Closes on underneath patterns with his eyes up and plays through the catch point to contest throwing windows. Terrific job working around receivers to play the ball. Anticipation maximizes his traits to reduce throwing windows. Ballhawk is probably a stretch, but his ball skills are a clear strength.
Man Coverage – In five games I studied, rarely asked to match up in man coverage. Don’t know if his transitions or technique would be fluid enough to handle such assignments against most competition. Projects better as a zone defender, either underneath or deep, who can use his processing and length to close down throwing windows.
Fluidity/Agility – Little stiff in his transitions in tight quarters. Doesn’t change directions on a dime and takes a second to reach top speed. Still, agile and fluid enough to not be athletically overmatched on more than a rep or two in the five games that I watched.
Tackling – Terrific form tackler who won’t hesitate to come downhill. Has delivered some big shots without sacrificing his technique as a tackler. Long arms give him a massive tackle radius to make tackles outside his frame, but powerful backs have also run through his arm tackles when he doesn’t hit them square. Does have a little stiffness in space to mirror head-up runners adjusting their path on the move and will whiff as a result.
Run Defense – Extremely active run defender who fills in a physical manner and timely fashion. Capable of playing around the line of scrimmage or filling from deep. Finds the football through trash really well. Runs the alley with very little hesitation and arrives at the ball under control. Angles to the ball are typically ideal.
Route Recognition – Can get stuck on routes breaking in front of him or even have his eyes in the backfield, allowing receivers to run by him on occasion. Has to be bit more disciplined to not jump everything. Typically maintains good depth and processes routes flooding his zone very well. Good feel for patterns developing around him and ability to read-and-react to quarterback’s eyes/movement in pocket.
Versatility – I don’t think he’ll be an ideal single-high safety, but he can play in 2-high shells and he can play around the box. May never be ideal in man coverage, but lack of opportunity there makes it a little bit of an unknown. Should star on special teams.
Competitive Toughness – Super physical with terrific energy and effort on the field. Seems like an emotional leader of the Bulldogs defense on game days, never hesitating to get involved in the action around the box.
Athleticism/Size – Eye-popping length and size for a safety. May need to fill out his frame a bit more, but certainly plays with desirable functional strength. Probably not going to test like an elite athlete, but it’s not a significant weakness either.
BEST TRAIT – Ball Skills
WORST TRAIT – Man Coverage
RED FLAGS – None
I studied five games of Fresno State safety Mike Bell, desperately searching for a reason why he isn’t getting more buzz as a top 100 prospect in the 2019 class. I couldn’t find one. Sure, he may not be an elite athlete and he’ll miss a tackle here and there, but he’s active against the run, physical in his playing style and generally reliable all over the field.
The most underrated part of Bell’s game are his ball skills, as he had several opportunities to deliver big shots to receivers and instead opted to play the ball in the air. He’s confident tracking and high-pointing the football, playing with the recognition and aggression needed to consistently disrupt the catch-point, if not come away with turnovers. The junior will also make an immediate impact on special teams. If Bell tests well, he deserves to be a top 100 pick, preferably somewhere in Round 3.