The 2017 NFL Draft is only days away and that means that it’s time for draft talk to start heating up. Only a couple of Penn State stars will likely to hear their names called on draft day. However, there are still a few players that NFL teams might be interested in later in the draft or as an undrafted free agent. It only takes one team to see the potential in a player.
We took a look at the top three destinations for linebacker Brandon Bell ahead of this Thursday’s NFL Draft in this edition of Draft Destinations.
LB Brandon Bell
Bell has a shot at being drafted this year, but will most likely see a number of teams chase after his services once the draft is complete. Although Bell wasn’t invited to the NFL combine, he did post some pretty good numbers at his Pro Day here at Penn State. He ran his 40-yard dash in 4.68 seconds, while also recording a 32-inch vertical, 9-feet-6 broad jump, 4.32 short shuttle, 7.16 3-cone drill and 15 reps on the bench.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein’s Scouting Report:
Per game production was impressive this season. Has forced six fumbles over the last two seasons and has an interception in each of the last three seasons, including two this year. Student of the game. Plays with instincts and good awareness on the field. Able to sniff out misdirection and screen plays quickly. Has a feel for slipping blockers and finding the action when playing downhill. Disciplined in zone coverage. Considered one of the team leaders.
Slightly undersized. Has missed six games over the last two seasons due to injury. Gets in trouble when he sits back on second level rather than attacking the line of scrimmage. Can get muscled around by second level blockers. Below average foot quickness and agility could limit effectiveness against shifty runners. Doesn’t have the sudden burst to close out running backs headed for the edge. Needs the action to stay near the box.
Bell is a physical tackler who plays the game with good instincts and fundamentals, but he has some athletic limitations that could hurt his chances on the next level. He flashed decent straight-line speed which gives him a chance to carve out a spot for himself in kick coverage for a team who believes he’s good enough to handle backup linebacker duties.
The Three Best Options For Brandon Bell
The Bears need help everywhere on defense. But mostly, the team is in need of defensive leadership — and on most teams that vocal leader is found in the linebacker room. Although Bell is not going to stun anybody with his athleticism, he’s definitely a force to be reckoned with.
He was a consistent performer throughout the season for the Nittany Lions and has a real shot at being a contributor on an NFL roster. Nobody is expecting him to come in and take over at middle linebacker from the start; Bell will most likely see the bulk, if not all, of his playing time come as a special teams player. Bell can come to Chicago and provide immediate depth at the linebacker spot — a spot of great need for the team. Again, in the seventh round, teams are more likely to be looking for particular traits rather than complete players. Bell’s toughness, motor and leadership in a reserve role could prove valuable for a young Bears’ defense.
The Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is no stranger to turning mid-to-late-round linebackers into serious playmakers on defense. Look no further than Dallas’ current strong-side linebacker Anthony Hitchens out of Iowa. Hitchens was drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft and has a contract year coming up. The team might try and move on from him and find a cheaper option for the future through this draft.
Additionally, Hitchens has had to deal with a litany of nagging injuries over the past couple of years. Injury is also something that Brandon Bell is no stranger to, as Bell missed 6 games in the past two seasons due to injury — including an extended. Bell could come to Dallas late in the draft or as an undrafted free agent and prove his worth through his special teams’ efforts and by starting out as a reserve strongside linebacker in the Cowboys’ 4-3 scheme. He could eventually replace Hitchens as the strongside starter if he makes enough plays in his first year on the team.
For the Eagles, the team’s two starting linebackers — Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham — were a good duo in the team’s 4-3 scheme last season. The additional time to adjust to Jim Schwartz’s scheme this offseason will only help these two get better. Former star linebacker Mychal Kendricks has fallen from the ranks because he’s simply a bad fit in Schwartz’s 4-3 scheme. Kendricks is used to having the ability to rush the passer — a strength of his — in previous years, and this scheme just doesn’t call upon those abilities of his. The rest of the Eagles depth chart at linebacker is a complete mess. Three names that are currently on the roster are Najee Goode, Joe Walker and Kamu Grugier-Hill; neither player has much NFL experience.
The bottom line is that Eagles need a playmaking reserve inner linebacker that could spell either Hicks or Bradham. Bell, again, could come in and make a name for himself on special teams but also show the Eagles that he can be a playmaker in the NFL. Bell’s playmaking abilities were on full display in the Nittany Lions’ upset of Ohio State this past season. In that game, Bell posted 18 tackles and a sack in just his first game back from an injury that cost him four games. Bell had a pre-draft visit with the Eagles, so Philadelphia could definitely be a team to keep an eye on during the draft.