Used mostly on screens and dump-offs in 2013, Bell still led the team with 52 receptions, but only for an average gain of 11.4 yards, as he also had four touchdowns. He would finish his time at Nebraska as the school’s all-time leader with 181 receptions for 2,689 yards (14.86 ypc), reaching the end zone with 21 of those grabs.
Bell is a savvy route runner who generates good explosion off the line, along with good hand usage to get into his route and get a clean release and avoid the jam. He has the ball skills to play outside his frame and make proper adjustments working down field. His hip swerve and head fakes, along with his natural hands, lets him make a quick move to elude the defender while cradling the ball properly to prevent the forced fumble.
Bell shows good athletic ability for his position, demonstrating the change of direction, balance and body control to not take any false steps getting into his routes. He has sudden quickness and impressive deep speed, building his acceleration nicely, as he shows the body torque to get in and out of his breaks cleanly, which is fortunate, as he is one of the weakest receivers in this draft class (seven reps in the 225-pound bench press).
He is a quick, short strider with good playing speed for his size but is better utilized in the short-to-intermediate areas, as he has very good balance running his routes and does a good job of adjusting to the ball in flight. Bell also has a solid understanding for route building/progression. He comes off the line hard and tries to look fast, using his hands well to attack the center of a defensive back to get a strong push-off for a clean release.
He has the strength to defeat the jam and knows how to use his size to lean into and push off the defender when trying to create room to operate. Bell displays the moves to elude and it is very difficult to reroute him due to his ability to fend off defenders and protect his body. His speed makes him consistently escape past the press, but if stalled he lacks the strength to work his way through. He shows good body control through his movements and is surprisingly light on his feet for a player of his size.
The thing about Bell is that he is a savvy route runner who knows how to create, knows how to stick, leverage, elude and make square cuts working over the middle. There is little gather at the top and it is rare to see him have issues in and out of his break point, thanks to loose hips and a low pad level.
Bell runs tight up-field routes and has good stop-and-go action working underneath. He does a good job of eating up the defender’s cushion and is very capable of sinking and planting coming out of his breaks. The thing you notice on 2014 film is that Bell had a penchant for adjusting on his route so the quarterback did not have to throw a perfect pass every time.
Bell knows where defenders are at all times, whether when trying to settle underneath, break tackles or angle to deliver second-level blocks. He has a good feel for the soft areas and keeps good eye contact with the backfield, knowing when to break off his route and work back to the ball when the quarterback is pressured.
The Husker is consistent when having to adjust his routes on the move and has a good understanding for the sticks. He usually has reliable hands, along with the courage to “lay out” for off-target throws. He also demonstrates good reactionary quickness. As a blocker, he lacks the hand punch to stall second- and third-level defenders. He is an efficient crack blocker who willingly will throw his body and cut down field, but in pass protection he is more of a position/pester type, as he is not going to blow guys up, nor can he face up with any sort of success.
Bell has the leg moves and balance to get past arm tackles, but by being utilized mostly in the short areas, he has had to constantly fight for the ball with defenders draped all over him. He is an instinctive runner (rarely will he run into spots) and has the second gear to surprise a cornerback with a sudden burst to score from long distances. He maintains his acceleration while doing a nice job of shifting his weight and sinking his hips.
Kenny Bell Scouting Combine measurables
6-1/197 (4.42 forty)
31 5/8-inch arm length
9 1/4-inch hands
7-reps on bench
41 1/2-inch vertical jump
10-foot-9 broad jump
6.66 3-cone drill
4.15 20-yard shuttle<
11.60 60-yard shuttle
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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