For Whom The Tall Bell Tolls – A Look At Steelers RB Le\’Veon Bell And His BMI

One of the knocks on Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Le\’Veon Bell is his height, as he measured in at the 2013 NFL Combine at 73.375 inches. Bell was asked about his height during the mandatory mini camp in an interview on 105.9 The X Radio and talked about the pros and cons of it.

“Being a 6\’2″ running back, I\’m going to be one of the taller guys,” said Bell. “That\’s why they teach me to run a little lower here on the next level, because guys can really try to get under me, but I use that for my advantage seeing the defense. It can be an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time, and I\’m just going to try to do the best I can with it.”

Perhaps the bigger factor to consider with Bell is his BMI, which stands for Body Mass Index. Chase Stuart did a study of successful running backs prior to the 2008 NFL Draft on Pro Football Reference and came up with an average BMI of 29.5 when looking at the top 50 running backs with the most rushing yards that entered the league in 1970 or later. The average height of those 50 running backs was 72 inches, and the average weight was 216 pounds.

In case you are curious, Bell had a BMI of 30.03 when measured at the combine back in February, so that puts him just slightly over the average that Stuart came up with in his study.

Quite a few draftniks compared Bell to Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, and while it is a fair comparison, Forte\’s BMI prior to when he was drafted in 2008 was 28.33. There have been durability concerns about Forte over the past few years; however, so you have to wonder if this is because of his height or his lack of BMI.

Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden has also had some good production since being drafted in 2008, but like Forte, he too has some durability concerns attached to him and Stuart wondered prior to the him being drafted if his low BMI was a red flag of sorts.

Of the 50 great running backs that Stuart used in his study, 18 of them measured in at 73 or more inches; however, only 7 of them had a BMI of 29.5 or more. Both Fred Taylor and Gerald Riggs had similar BMI measurements to that of Bell, so perhaps that is a good sign.

Speed score is another metric that has come along since Stuart did his study back in 2008, and while not off the charts, Bell\’s score of 102.7 is respectable as it is over the magic number of 100.

When you look at the top 25 rushers of the running backs drafted dating back to 2005 you will see that the average speed score is 109.9, and the average BMI is 30.1. The average height of those 25 running backs is 71.035, however.

Bell is indeed a uniquely put together back and several in the media say that he doesn\’t look like he weighs as much as he does. If the Michigan State product can keep his BMI in the 30-31 range, perhaps his height will indeed play to into his advantage as it relates to seeing the defense better just as he suggested. It\’s obvious that he must keep his pad level low as well in order to not to allow defenders to get under him.

One of the many things that impressed the Steelers about Bell heading into the draft was his ability in college to get yards after contact. In addition to that, Bell is also used to running both the outside and inside zone. On top of everything else, he was considered to be one of the better pass blockers and pass catchers in the 2013 draft class, so he very well could wind up being one of the most complete three down running backs that the team has had since Jerome Bettis.

Time will only tell whether or not tall Bell will toll in Pittsburgh, but I like his chances even though he is taller than the average running back and that is mostly because of his solid BMI and his ability to be more than just a straight ahead inside power runner.

Being as several of you might want to play with the numbers, below are the 171 running backs drafted since 2005. These are sortable by clicking on the headers, so let me know of any other observations that you come across in the comments below.

YEARROUNDPLAYERTEAMHGTWGTBMI40SPEEDRUSHYDSTD
20071Adrian PetersonMIN73.521728.244.40115.81754884976
20053Frank GoreSFO69.37520830.384.6589.01911883951
20062Maurice Jones-DrewJAX66.7520732.664.39111.51570726863
20081Chris JohnsonTEN7119727.474.24121.91463688844
20071Marshawn LynchBUF71.12521529.884.46108.71452613246
20051Cedric BensonCHI70.522231.404.55103.61600601732
20061DeAngelo WilliamsCAR6921431.604.5599.91169578443
20082Ray RiceBAL6819930.254.42104.31216552033
20082Matt ForteCHI73.37521728.334.44111.71262532726
20051Ronnie BrownMIA72.2523331.384.43121.01216517137
20054Brandon JacobsNYG76.2526732.284.56123.51083485656
20054Marion BarberDAL71.37522130.504.49108.81156478053
20083Jamaal CharlesKAN7120027.894.38108.7784453617
20061Joseph AddaiIND71.2521429.634.40114.21095445339
20077Ahmad BradshawNYG69.519828.824.5592.4921423232
20061Reggie BushNOR70.87520128.134.38109.2967416229
20051Carnell WilliamsTAM70.87521730.374.43112.71055403821
20092LeSean McCoyPHI70.37519828.11835386630
20081Jonathan StewartCAR70.2523533.484.46118.8818383627
20081Rashard MendenhallPIT70.12522532.174.41119.0864354929
20093Shonn GreeneNYJ70.522732.114.6299.7822342318
20081Darren McFaddenOAK73.2521127.654.33120.0769333418
20074Michael BushOAK73.37524331.734.60108.5746305326
20081Felix JonesDAL70.12520729.594.44106.5569272811
20061Laurence MaroneyNWE71.87521729.534.47108.7618250421
20101Ryan MathewsSDG71.62521829.874.45111.2564247614
20091Chris WellsARI7323531.004.59105.9625247124
20091Knowshon MorenoDEN70.62521730.584.56100.4605243016
20062LenDale WhiteTEN72.37523831.94628234924
20083Kevin SmithDET73.12521728.534.53103.1598234617
20064Leon WashingtonNYJ67.87520130.674.42105.3473221316
20101C.J. SpillerBUF70.62519627.624.37107.5388208810
20063Jerious NorwoodATL71.62521028.784.40112.139920567
20085Tim HightowerARI7221629.294.6096.5523205424
20054Darren SprolesSDG66.12518730.074.4793.738420019
20083Steve SlatonHOU69.12519728.984.45100.5442189613
20091Donald BrownIND70.2521029.914.51101.5449184011
20113Stevan RidleyNWE71.2522531.164.6596.2377170413
20065Jerome HarrisonCLE69.2520129.474.47100.735616817
20087Justin ForsettSEA6819429.494.5590.534116618
20126Alfred MorrisWAS69.87521931.534.6792.1335161313
20113Demarco MurrayDAL71.62521329.194.37116.832515606
20121Doug MartinTAM69.2522332.694.55104.1319145411
20084Tashard ChoiceDAL70.521530.414.48106.7326140910
20072Brandon JacksonGNB69.87521030.244.5498.935513837
20102Ben TateHOU7122030.684.43114.224012216
20111Mark IngramNOR69.12521531.634.6294.4278107610
20096Bernard ScottCIN70.2520028.494.5692.525510354
20102Toby GerhartMIN7223131.334.60103.224010223
20085Ryan TorainDEN72.37522229.794.6198.323810116
20121Trent RichardsonCLE69.2522833.4226795011
20101Jahvid BestDET70.12519928.454.35111.22559456
20097Rashad JenningsJAX7323130.474.53109.72249447
20106James StarksGNB74.12521827.894.50106.32339342
20112Daniel ThomasMIA72.2523030.974.60102.72569064
20114Kendall HunterSFO67.2519930.934.46100.61848444
20053Ryan MoatsPHI68.2521031.694.46106.12048318
20125Vick BallardIND70.2521931.204.6593.72118142
20112Mikel LeshoureDET71.62522731.114.56105.02157989
20106Jonathan DwyerPIT71.2522931.714.6895.51817742
20053Vernand MorencyHOU69.62521230.744.6689.91717264
20094Mike GoodsonCAR71.87520828.304.5497.91607223
20056Cedric HoustonNYJ7122431.244.6794.21946767
20052J.J. ArringtonARI68.87521431.714.40114.21836543
20097Larod Stephens-HowlingARI66.517928.464.5583.51836525
20114Roy HeluWAS71.521930.124.40116.91536422
20115Jacquizz RodgersATL65.87519631.754.5988.31515672
20127Bryce BrownPHI71.7521929.914.55102.21155644
20075Kolby SmithKAN71.2522030.474.50107.31625403
20102Montario HardestyCLE71.7522530.734.49110.71535371
20123Bernard PierceBAL72.2521829.364.49107.31085321
20104Joe McKnightNYJ71.37519827.324.4799.21125020
20114Delone CarterIND68.62522533.594.54105.91334995
20095Javon RingerTEN69.12520530.164.5992.41204863
20066Wali LundyHOU7121429.844.48106.31244764
20113Alexander GreenGNB72.2522530.304.45114.81384750
20127Daryl RichardsonSTL70.519627.724.4699.1984750
20114Bilal PowellNYJ70.520729.284.5894.11234584
20074Antonio PittmanNOR70.7520729.074.40110.51174350
20097Chris OgbonnayaSTL71.7522030.044.57100.9954201
20116Evan RoysterWAS71.62521229.054.6590.7794162
20077Kenneth DarbyTAM70.37521129.954.7582.9954082
20106Anthony DixonSFO72.7523330.954.7591.51204026
20094Andre BrownNYG72.12522430.274.49110.2753848
20121David WilsonNYG69.62520629.874.49101.4713584
20124Robert TurbinSEA7022231.854.50108.3803540
20077DeShawn WynnGNB70.37523232.934.47116.2643325
20123Ronnie HillmanDEN68.7520029.754.45102.0843271
20112Shane VereenNWE68.87520330.084.4999.9773084
20106Deji KarimJAX68.7521031.234.46106.1982900
20073Garrett WolfeCHI67.518628.704.4297.5722821
20067Quinton GantherTEN69.521831.734.50106.3802803
20096Cedric PeermanBAL69.521631.444.45110.2412741
20057Noah HerronPIT7122431.244.60100.1852733
20086Mike HartIND68.87520630.534.6985.2712642
20124Lamar MillerMIA70.7521229.774.40113.1512501
20054Alvin PearmanJAX69.37520830.384.6390.5582382
20073Lorenzo BookerMIA70.37519127.114.4696.5612300
20093Glen CoffeeSFO72.12520928.244.5895.0832261
20096Aaron BrownDET72.519626.214.5789.9451890
20086Jalen ParmeleMIA71.522430.804.47112.2471870
20115Dion LewisPHI66.62519330.574.5689.3361712
20112Ryan WilliamsARI69.37521230.974.5995.5581640
20086Lex HilliardMIA71.12523132.104.6896.3481632
20054Ciatrick FasonMIN72.7520727.504.5894.1501615
20122LaMichael JamesSFO6819429.494.4598.9271250
20072Chris HenryTEN71.2523031.854.40122.7321222
20125Chris RaineyPIT68.37518027.074.4591.8261022
20055Damien NashTEN69.62521831.614.54102.624980
20114Taiwan JonesOAK71.62519426.584.33110.422940
20074Dwayne WrightBUF71.522831.354.6696.729940
20094Gartrell JohnsonSDG70.2521931.204.7288.223790
20114Jamie HarperTEN71.37523332.154.53110.736744
20115Johnny WhiteBUF69.87520930.094.50101.920720
20117Anthony AllenBAL72.7522830.284.56105.519691
20096James DavisCLE7121830.404.52104.519600
20122Isaiah PeadSTL70.12519728.164.4798.710540
20063Brian CalhounDET69.2520129.474.5792.214540
20117Baron BatchPIT6920229.834.5197.725491
20126Cyrus GrayKAN70.37520629.244.47103.27440
20086Xavier OmonBUF70.7522832.024.52109.211270
20073Tony HuntPHI73.7523330.124.55108.714252
20117Da\’Rel ScottNYG7121129.434.40112.611250
20052Eric SheltonCAR73.524632.014.53116.88230
20116Allen BradfordTAM71.87524232.934.53114.95130
20087Chauncey WashingtonJAX71.37521129.124.6094.2580
20116Jordan TodmanSDG68.87520330.084.40108.3380
20097Javarris WilliamsKAN69.522332.464.52106.9660
20126Dan HerronCIN69.7521330.784.6690.3450
20136Latavius MurrayOAK75.2522427.814.38121.7
20132Le\’veon BellPIT73.37523030.034.60102.7
20067Cedric HumesPIT72.87522730.054.6299.7
20087Allen PatrickBAL72.7519826.304.5096.6
20087Cory BoydTAM72.521328.494.52102.1
20085Marcus ThomasSDG72.2521328.694.5996.0
20135Joseph RandleDAL7220427.664.6388.8
20137Michael CoxNYG71.87522029.944.58100.0
20053Maurice ClarettDEN71.62523432.074.7889.6
20057Lionel GatesBUF71.62522230.424.6099.2
20126Terrance GanawayNYJ71.523932.874.67100.5
20106Charles ScottPHI71.37523832.844.7295.9
20133Knile DavisKAN71.37522731.324.37124.5
20097Fui VakapunaCIN71.2524734.204.70101.2
20134Marcus LattimoreSFO71.2522130.604.58100.5
20135Mike GillisleeMIA71.12520828.914.5597.1
20132Eddie LacyGNB7123132.214.53109.7
20117Jay FinleyCIN70.87519827.714.5096.6
20072Kenny IronsCIN70.62520328.614.45103.5
20132Montee BallDEN70.521430.274.6690.8
20076Thomas ClaytonSFO70.2521831.054.6394.9
20136Rex BurkheadCIN70.2521430.484.7385.5
20136Spencer WareSEA70.12522832.594.60101.8
20064P.J. DanielsBAL70.12521430.594.6492.3
20132Christine MichaelSEA7022031.564.54103.6
20134Johnathan FranklinGNB7020529.414.49100.9
20056DeAndra CobbATL69.7519628.324.4996.4
20136Kenjon BarnerCAR69.2519628.734.5293.9
20136Andre EllingtonARI69.2519929.174.6188.1
20135Stepfan TaylorARI69.12521431.484.7683.4
20095Frank SummersPIT69.12524335.754.65103.9
20077Nate IlaoaPHI68.87524536.314.7794.7
20086Thomas BrownATL68.37520430.684.5198.6
20135Zachary StacySTL68.37521632.484.55100.8
20132Giovani BernardCIN68.37520230.374.5395.9
20127Michael SmithTAM68.37520630.984.32118.3
20137Kerwynn WilliamsIND68.12519529.544.4896.8
20127Edwin BakerSDG6820431.014.5396.9
20137Jawan JamisonWAS67.37520331.444.6884.6
20135Chris ThompsonWAS67.12519229.964.5093.6
20057Anthony DavisIND66.62520031.674.5097.5
20136Mike JamesTAM61.522341.454.53105.9

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • steeltown

    very interesting

  • steves

    How did they come up with the speed score? Why I am asking is you can’t tell me that Brandon Jacobs is faster than Chris Johnson – No way!!

  • SteelersDepot
  • moderatelysane

    The beginning of the table puts the fear to rest. AP is the same height. I’ll take his production.

  • mem359

    Now I’m wondering about the BMI of the other Steeler backs on the bubble (Dwyer, Redman, Batch).

  • steves

    They explain how to get the formula and I appreciate letting me know. Jacobs is a BIG dude but Bradshaw had him beat. Jacobs was just a fill in for Bradshaw.
    How a persons heart is,, is very hard to rate. The Bus would mow you over and Jacobs would try to run around. Bus loved the game and Jacobs mind was somewhere else.
    Gore had a very low speed and 40 time but look at the yardage he picked up. A lot has to do with the OL and the cohisiveness with the Offense. Which the Steelers had neither of last year, and why they were 8-8.
    How come Shady McCoys speed and 40 times are not listed?

  • steves

    I see Dwyer and Stephens-Howling in the middle of the pack. Dwyer had a BMI of 31.71 and Howling had a BMI of 28.46 – No tellin on the others.

  • dgh57

    Three RBs who I can think of that went on to have very successful NFL careers who were all over 6′ 1: Eddie George, Marcus Allen, and Eric Dickerson!

    If they can do it, Bell has a chance to do it to!

  • Douglas Andrews

    Speed Score on some of these backs is really interesting. There are some really good big backs on that list. I agree that Bell doesn’t look the part of a 6’2″ 230 pounder but he sure runs hard. I like the comparision to Eddie George and if that’t the case he should really help out our run game this year.

  • charles

    There are also immeasurables like JamesHarrison’s natural strength and Barry Sanders peripheral vision. Yards after contact might speak to these things since good peripheral vision can keep you from being hit well and natural strength can get you a few more yards. We will have to wait and see what immeasurables Bell brings. I am hoping they are good immeasurables and not bad immeasurables like fumblitis.

  • Luke Shabro

    Kid reminds me of a cross between Forte and Marion Barber. I hope to God he lasts longer than Barber