One That Slipped Away

Selecting players out of the college ranks is an imperfect science, even though the Colts are darn good at it. But they really missed the boat on one running back that ColtPower profiled during the offseason as a "Colts Hot Prospect."

"I won't stop until I'm on top."

Those were the words that Arizona running back Mike Bell said to me with conviction back in early April prior to the NFL Draft. I was the first to share with Colts fans that Bell's sole formal interview at the Combine was with Tony Dungy (click the link to read the story), so the personable and talented young man was obviously on the Colts radar.

Projected to be a mid-round pick by many prognosticators, I thought Bell would be a great pickup for the Colts. He certainly had the demeanor and character that Indianapolis looks for. And his work ethic was unquestionable. Even if the Colts used a top pick on a running back, I figured Bell would be a steal in the fifth or sixth round.

But not only did the Colts let Mike Bell slip off the charts, inexplicably, so did 31 other teams. The draft ended and Bell didn't have a place to hang his hat.

That was hard for me to swallow, because all it took was one conversation with Bell to know that this was a player with heart. His words didn't sound canned, coached or shallow. He spoke as though every word came from his soul. The sincerity with the confidence to back every word came through loud and clear.

So how did the Colts, a team that may have a great rookie back of their own in Joseph Addai, but who could lose Dominic Rhodes at the end of the 2006 season miss that?

The Broncos won the undrafted free agent derby for Bell's services. And today, there were undoubtedly a whole bunch of NFL scouts who made themselves a bit scarce, especially if they told their teams that Bell wasn't worthy of being drafted.

The Denver Broncos announced that undrafted rookie free agent Mike Bell would now be working with their first team and would be their starter in their preseason opener. And it's not due to anyone else on their roster being injured. After offseason workouts and just nine days of training camp, head coach Mike Shanahan is officially on the Mike Bell bandwagon.

"It could change day-by-day and week-by-week, but we felt that Mike deserves a chance to work with the first team," said Shanahan.

For Bell, the news was both a pleasant surprise and an affirmation of what he knew all along that he could accomplish for the NFL team that gave him the chance.

"On draft day, I felt like totally quitting football but this time I feel like I am on cloud nine," Bell said. "This is a great feeling, but I've got to stay hungry."

Even if Joseph Addai becomes the great back of the future for the Colts, if fans watch Mike Bell emerge as a force in this league, it will be hard not to regret the one-two punch that Addai and Bell could have provided on the depth chart for Indianapolis for years to come. And in NFL terms, in exchange for Bell's bargain-basement contract to boot. He has a three-year deal that pays him a salary of $275,000 and ramps up to just $445,00 in 2008.

Bottom line, it appears the Broncos got one of the great steals of the 2005 draft class. And Colts fans might be left wondering how this one got away after the Colts had positioned themselves as his primary suitor following the Combine.

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