2016 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Ohio State S Vonn Bell

Vonn Bell

As we delve into the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason, our attention has now shifted to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Steelers are likely to have interest in.

A look at Ohio State safety Von Bell today.

#11 – Vonn Bell/S Ohio State: 5-11, 200

The Good:

– Displays impressive range as Cover 2 safety
– Tackles extremely effectively for a defensive back
– Sees run plays coming, plays downhill
– Aggressive closing on underneath routes, across the deeper middle
– Has no issue sticking his nose in, engaging in pushing piles
– Excellent route anticipation
– Physical with receivers larger than him
– Flexible and athletic

The Bad:

– Iffy tackling angles consistently, particularly coming downhill against the run
– Questionable vision of the backfield, fails to see pulling guards
– Doesn’t have the hips to match receivers in open-field
– Overpursues to the sideline
– Allows separation on short out routes to TEs and FBs, but covers effectively downfield
– Inconsistent hands. Makes the hard catches look easy and the easy catches look hard.
– Struggles disengaging from blocks


– Five-star recruit out of Ridgeland High School (Rossville, GA). Consensus top 50 prospect, top 30 according to Rivals, Scout and 247Sports
– Father Vencent Bell played college football at Murray State University
– Started 14 of 15 games in 2014 for the National Champion Buckeye team
– Has established the “Vonn Bell Academy” on Twitter. Mostly an inside joke with teammates about making plays
– 2014 saw him rack up 91 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sacks, 6 INTs, 6 PDs, 1 FR
– Had a one-handed goal-line interception in his first career start, a 40-35 loss to Clemson in the 2013 Orange Bowl

Tape Breakdown:

Although Bell displays some excellent range and sideline-to-sideline ability on the field, he does take really bad tackling angles at times. Here, Bell diagnoses run correctly and comes downhill. He just doesn’t have the vision to notice the FB coming across the formation and opening the hole for the back. Instead, his angle is far too shallow and he has to bend around at the second level to make it to the back.

Here we see that questionable angle again. He jumps too far inside with bad vision on the back and when the RB (current Bear Jeremy Langford) bounces outside, he has to detour across the field.

This is an excellent coverage down from Bell, who struggled with TEs underneath in 2014. Although he commits to the inside break too early, he closes and attacks the ball very well. This aggression at the catch point is remarkable for its physicality. He isn’t the biggest safety, but he plays fiercely.

Here’s another example. Bell closes aggressively underneath to Amara Darboh, a WR who has a couple of inches and about ten pounds difference of size advantage. You wouldn’t know it from the way Bell plays through him to the ball, though.

While it’s clear that Bell has a tendency to take bad angles to the ball carrier, how does he tackle? This is a great example. Bell comes up from his free safety position. He breaks down, sizes up Hawaii WR Isaiah Bernard and drives through him to make the stop. Note how low Bell gets to minimize the impact and drive up through Bernard, who’s also hunching down to deliver the blow. Bell just has to be careful here and not drop his vision as much in future. Defenders are taught to keep their head up and see what they’re tackling. This should be an easily coached fault.

Finally, any quality safety will need field range to flow sideline to sideline. Bell has extremely underrated range. Check out his action here on a throwback to a familiar name, then-Michigan QB Devin Gardner. Even though he’s the backside safety, he has the range to recover across to the far pylon in time to make a tackle there.

Range isn’t just a measure of speed on the field. It also requires the evaluator to take into account the IQ, angle and athleticism to get the player from Point A to Point B. Although Bell struggles with angles at times, his IQ and athleticism are both poised and more than adequate enough for the next level.


Bell is quietly a very intriguing prospect, although he hasn’t received much airtime or lip service from any of the media analysts. It’s fair to say he’s underrated in that sense, although don’t sleep on him as a prospect. Bell is a great college safety and he’ll immediately be a very solid NFL safety.

He doesn’t really have any conspicuous qualities or particularly noteworthy attributes, which is interesting – in that sense, he’s almost…bland, as a prospect. I can easily highlight his physicality, which is probably the thing that jumps off the tape the most. However, he’s so well-rounded that nothing else particularly flashes. He’s just consistently standout in so many ways.

People may talk about him being a jack of all trades, but I don’t think that gives Bell enough credit. He’s not just going to be a jack as a safety – he will exceed that description pretty handily, I think. However, will he master anything right out of the gates? No, but his high floor will cover for that.

Although the coverage scheme at Ohio State never asked Bell to play centerfield or Cover 3 middle of field responsibilities, I believe he has the ability to play that role based on his tape. He was used in a Cover 2 shell and underneath as a strong safety. Because of that use, and his skillset, he could easily put together a long career as an NFL player. His tackling angles may be questionable at times, but his physicality and tackling ability mean he could step in at strong safety. His downhill ability and range mean he would also be more than capable at free safety. As I said – his high floor will mean he just stands out wherever he plays.

With a need at safety and an affinity for former Ohio State Buckeyes, the Steelers could do worse than picking up Bell. However, that then raises the question – is he worth investing the late-first round selection? It would probably be a minor reach there, but considering he’ll likely be off the board by their next pick, it could be worth it to mark down a starting position. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Projection: Mid-Second Round

Games Watched: Michigan (2014), at Michigan State (2014), vs. Hawaii (2015), vs. Michigan State (2015)

Previous Player Profiles
Hunter HenryEli AppleLaquon TreadwellDadi NicolasKendall Fuller
Deion JonesJihad WardKevin PetersonJihad Ward

About the Author

Luc Polglaze
If it's not about football, it's about music. Colorado born and raised, living in DC now.
  • Spencer Krick

    I don’t see the Steelers reaching for Bell in the first, I think trading up for him in the 2nd if the Safety well starts to run dry to be more likely.

    I wouldn’t be made if the Steelers took him in the second. The only questions I would have is How would he pair with Mitchell? As I recall Mitchell takes some pretty bad angles at time, do we need two guys back there with that deficiency?

  • Audio Guy Josh

    He’s from Rossville, GA. I’m from Fayette County but live near Chattanooga now so I’m pulling for this guy to end up a Steeler.

  • Big Joe

    I agree that he’s a mid-2nd Rd prospect and will be gone in the early 2nd. Will the team trade up for him from 58? It’ll cost them a 2017 pick to do it and maybe one of the 7ths from this year. He and Darian Thompson are the only 2nd Rd safeties I see fitting our coverage/in-the-box needs so that we’re not terribly susceptible to one or the other if a safety is injured. We’ll see.

  • John

    Where are the good plays? The video of his game against Michigan in 2014 is subpar. The GIFs show bad angles and little else. Why is he good? BTW McShay has him going in round one at about 25 so I don’t see him with us. Is Apple any good at corner?

  • Aaron

    Anyone know the Date of birth for Darian Thompson??????????

  • Birdman

    Don’t know the date, but he’s 22, most likely about to be 23.

  • Steve Johnson

    CB/SS/FS, I just hope they don’t reach for anyone like they did last year.

  • falconsaftey43

    I think you’re dead on having him as a mid 2nd round safety. I actually think Will Allen is a really good comp, well rounded across the board, likely a solid starter for 10+ seasons, but never going to be an impact guy. I’d be ok with the pick at 25, but would rather take Thompson or carl joeseph who I think can be more impact players and are also late first to mid 2nd rounders

  • falconsaftey43

    Refering to Dupree? Or Golson?

  • Xclewsive

    Vonn Bell has the necessary skills required to play in the Steelers defense as a pass defender. I agree that his tackling leaves you sketchy as that’s been the Steelers DBs issues outside of pass coverage. The Steelers need a successor to Will Allen as his skills will only deteriorate even more with another season. It really doesn’t matter who the Steelers draft at 25 they won’t see major playing time early in the season. At the position the Steelers are drafting there are a few things that can happen.

    #1 A good player slides ala David DeCastro, Bud Dupree (slightly probable)
    #2 The Steelers draft BPA (highly probable) Vonn Bell, Kendall Fuller, Alexander Mckensie, Darian Thompson
    #3 The Steelers get aggressive and trade up for a player they desire (less likely probable) Jalen Ramsey, VH3

  • SFIC

    A lot of talk here about trading up. I very much doubt that will happen with us not having our 5th & 6th Rd picks. If anything I see us trading down to get some picks back. This is a very weak draft class especially near the top. DB OT OLB WR ILB as weak as I’ve seen in years. Unless one of the 34de falls to us or TE Henry is there, I would hope we trade down.

  • Ike Evans

    This is one of my guys…he plays like a steeler and i think would be a perfect fit…..dont see us getting him unless we trade back from 25 though….he may not make it to us in the 2nd there is probably going to be a run on safetys in the second or maybe the very end of the first between thompson, bell, neal, tyvis powell

  • SFIC

    I agree Ike. But all those safeties are not without faults. I think one will be there in 2.

  • Xclewsive

    I think the combine will elevate some players as well as pro days. Every year the Steelers are slated early on a player and that said player catapults himself out of the Steelers reach. There are a few I remember Tyron Smith was slated for the Steelers early in the process only be out of reach. Dontari Poe was another. Vonn Bell with a great pro day and combine could very well work himself up draft boards. JMO

  • Vinhuddle

    Agree with the trading down if they can find someone to pull it off with. I’d be happy with an early 2nd to pick up Bell with then use the original 2nd on a CB. That is like ya mentioned if Henry is still available at 25.

  • Michael James

    Agree on all parts, but I don’t think Fuller or Bell would be anywhere near BPA when they pick at 25. I would really like them in round 2, but a 1st round pick for either of them would be a major reach.

  • Xclewsive

    running and jumping well gets players drafted higher

  • Ike Evans

    True…..i got a feeling darian thompson is going to blow the combine up

  • James Cowan

    Jalen Ramsey will be a top 10 pick. We’d have to mortgage our future for him so will never happen.

  • Troy Kidwell

    Bell”s position coach at OSU thinks he can play corner:””Those of you guys who know Vonn Bell, Vonn Bell could play corner in the NFL next year,” Ohio State’s cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator said Wednesday. “He has that skill set.”

  • PittsburghSports

    2nd rd would be great, but I’d much rather have Karl Joseph.

  • LucasY59

    never an impact guy but solid starter = not a 1st rd pick, a possibility for the 2nd pick tho

  • PittsburghSports

    How about Joshua Perry on that Ohio St breakdown! I’d love him to take over at Buck for Timmons in a year or two.

  • SteelersDepot

    how about give us time?

  • PittsburghSports

    I meant like look at him, not do a profile on him lol. He stood out on the tape above.

  • Xclewsive

    I understand that, but crazier things have happen!

  • Jake Milman

    I still like Thompson more

  • PaeperCup

    Bell > Apple

  • PaeperCup

    wanna send him a present?

  • SFIC

    Me too. Just not at 25

  • Jake Milman

    I’m ok with the reach at 25, he won’t make it past 40. Especially if he runs decent at combine/pro day

  • Ernest

    I also believe that their will be a run on safeties at the end of 1st to early 2nd. I fear all the top safeties will be gone by 58. maybe the Panthers will be willing trade picks if they lose Norman in FA.

  • GreyFox233

    Whats not being told is that the Clemson bowl game was his first game in college. The starting safety was benched because Martavious Bryant and Sammy Watkins embarrased them. So they put him in for the first time and he got a pick. Next seaon he played every game and they won the national championship.Last season (his 2nd) he was the anchor of the defense. Big part of Bosa’s sacks were due to Bell. Apple (as a 1st rd cb) needs time but Vonn will see the field sooner and end the need for safety. Reach or not it will end the look for a safety and upgrade the secondary this coming season. IMO

  • Nathanael Dory


  • jsteeler

    DE/ S/ CB/ OG
    Pressure on the QB with a steady rotation of fresh bodies will allow more splash plays in the Secondary.

  • GreyFox233

    Our needs….NT that pushes the pocket, DT to help Cam and Stephon keep the QB moving, CB-obvious, and Safety.I dont care which way we go . I just know our 1st two picks are crucial because they usually make and improve the team. After that it’s a crapshoot.These mocks are way too early to say who is going where. I just hope we hit on two of the four real needs for defense and stay away from Offense. It’s more a matter of guessing were this drafts depth is so they are making succesful picks after the 2nd rd.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    I’m a little confused by the Good/Bad review regarding VB. They seem to be a bit contradictory.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    6 pics in ’14 kinda sorta make him to be an impact type of guy…not sure what he did in ’15 though. If he wasn’t as productive, teams may have gone the other way….

  • Ju

    In case we’re trading down our #25 to a 2nd round pick, what could we have ? A 3rd round pick ? A 4th ?

  • LucasY59

    yes if he can get 6+ Ints at the S position then he is definitely making an impact, but I’m not sure if he will be able to do that at the pro level, and the comparisons to Will Allen make me think that is his ceiling, will be a solid guy to have on D, so I think that he would be a good guy to consider in the 2nd, but I think there will be better prospects available in the 1st

  • Steve Johnson

    Without a doubt, Golson. I think the arrow is pointing up for Dupree.

  • Steve Johnson

    I would be fine with an OLB, but they better get it right! No more Jarvis Jones!

  • Darth Blount 47

    Love this kid. Been pushing for him all week in the 2nd rd in my mock drafts. Would I take him at 25? Over say Billings or Will Jack 3? Probably not. But if they were both gone……

  • Hey Luc, I do think it could be prudent to consider drafting a high quality prospect for an important position of need slightly ahead of his projected worth if that player [or comparable players] will likely be gone by a more convenient pick. In this respect, I wouldn’t blink if the Steelers took Karl Joseph or any versatile safety who’s rated between a fist or second round talent–including Thomson, Bell, Neal–if the the team identifies that safety as 1) the safety they want and 2) that he won’t likely be available beyond round one. Otherwise, they run a certain risk of not getting what they want or need when reloading a major position for years to come. Lastly, Whoever they want–Bell, Joseph, Neal, or Thomson–might be rated for the second round by whoever, but how he’s rated [by the media and experts] in this draft compared to other prospects at QB, DL, OL, LB, WR, etc., has nothing to do with how the Steelers rate him concerning his skills, the importance of the position and their need, and his fit for their scheme and long term plans.

  • John21

    I find it interesting – on the NFL network Brooks & Jeremiah were praising his ability to see and take the correct angle–no doubt a critical skill for our last line of defense. So which is it? I am not sure that can be taught.

  • jsteeler

    We need JJ this year. He’ll be fine.