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)

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About the Author

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