Players often tied to the Minnesota Vikings as a possible first-round pick at No. 23 overall include TCU wide receiver Josh Doctson, Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee, Ohio State wide receiver Michael Thomas, Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and Kansas State offensive lineman Cody Whitehair. But a recent ESPN mock draft had a new player added to the list, Ohio State safety Vonn Bell.
The mock draft called this selection a value pick and Vikings general manager Rick Spielman loves drafting with the best –player-available mentality, even if it’s not a position of need.
“I guess I’ve always looked at the draft as, pretend you have no guys on your team, and the way we kind of develop the board … you want to fill your needs, but you also want to take the best player,” Spielman said before the NFL Scouting Combine. “How we develop our board is we have a system I think that can do both. If a significant player that we think is a blue or a potential Pro Bowl player that’s not a need, you can’t pass that player up, either, especially if he’s still sitting there on the board. So we’re going to fill our needs, but we also – I want to take the best football players.”
ESPN currently has Bell ranked at No. 17 on their big board, so by selecting him at No. 23 the Vikings, theoretically, are getting a steal, but that’s only if they view Bell the same way ESPN does.
If they did select Bell, the Vikings will also be filling a need on the back side of their defense, as they have been looking for a safety to play next to Harrison Smith for a number of years now. The signing of Andrew Sendejo might not preclude the Vikings from drafting a safety earlier, either.
On paper Bell looks as though he would be strong complement to Smith. At 5-foot-11, 192 pounds, Bell is not the type of player that you are going to move into the box or line up on the line of scrimmage too often. His strength comes in pass coverage, which showed in his stats from his last two seasons when he was playing safety full-time – eight interceptions and 15 pass deflections.
That is the kind of player that the Vikings could use playing next to Smith, one who can man the middle of the field and protect the back end of the defense. That would allow Smith to move all over the field and do a number of different things, which is his true strength as a player. Not only is Smith effective in coverage, but he can also step up into the box to help stop the run and even get after the quarterback as a pass rusher. However, because of the lack of talent surrounding him at safety, Vikings coaches haven’t really been able to “turn him loose.”
A big question for Bell is how well he will play in run defense at the next level. Even if he is being asked to primarily work in coverage, he will be forced to stop the run from time to time. He said it’s something he is working on.
“Sometimes you get lazy, but as I’ve seen on film, sitting down with some scouts, they was tearing me up a little bit,” Bell said. “It’s something to fix; it’s not hard to fix. Just got to run to the ball a little harder.”
Another question Bell is going to have to answer is how fast he actually is. He could look slow at certain points during games, on film, and he did not run the 40 at the combine. His pro day will be big for him to show how fast he truly is, and it could either hurt or help his draft stock.
But if Bell is still available to the Vikings at No. 23, would they select him? Head coach Mike Zimmer has talked about building one of the best defenses in the NFL since he first arrived and he has indeed made strong inroads toward that goal. The only noticeable weak point on that defense is the second safety position, so drafting a player to fill that hole may be too enticing to pass up.