The Vikings already have one massive safety on their roster. Jayron Kearse has an intimidating frame for a defensive back. Standing at 6’4” and weighing in at 215 lbs, the Vikings seventh round pick in 2016 has only played sparingly on defense, although he has been a gunner on punts his entire career. However in 2018 he found the field more often in 3 safety sets, and might be a new staple with the ascension of Anthony Harris to starter following Andrew Sendejo’s departure. This leaves room for depth to be brought in at the safety position.
Size can be a difference maker in Zimmer’s defense, and it is clear that he likes long armed, fluid defenders. Fresno State’s Mike Bell might just have the build that the Vikings are looking for in their young defensive backs. Bell is 6’3” and 203 lbs. He’s not as tall as Jayron Kearse, or as long in the arms, Kearse’s arms are about 2 inches longer, but Bell has a bit better ball skills.
Bell’s decision to declare for the draft after his Junior season comes at the expense of what could have been a truly spectacular senior season, but he’s looking to make the most of his chance now. Bell finishes his college career with 198 tackles, 9 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 12 passes defended. He also helped Fresno State to a 12-2 record, a Mountain West Conference Championship, and a bowl victory in 2018. Personally, Bell collected an All-Mountain West 2nd-team selection for his efforts in 2018.
Where Bell truly shines is in effort. Bell is constantly mixing it up with running backs and receivers. He knows how to make plays on the offensive player, not just the ball. His level of physicality is high, making him an ideal run support safety in that regard. His true downside is that he tend to not form tackle and truly wrap up. He is more than willing to torpedo into a runner or receiver, but he needs to refine his technique to become a more pure tackler.
Bell’s ability to read a quarterback are a bit suspect. He can get lost in coverage, and has a tendency to be easily moved with a look off. He doesn’t have the athleticism to make up for poor reads, and his play can suffer from it. However, if a quarterback is staring down a receiver, he should be able to make a play for the ball. He has nice jumping ability, and his long arms allow him to rip balls away from almost any player.
The all-or-nothing style of Bell’s play will have to be worked out of his game if he is to succeed in the NFL, and especially in Zimmer’s defense. He will need to learn to make form tackles and play within his role in the defense. Otherwise, teams will target him with look offs from the quarterback, and counters when he playing up near the line in contain.
If the Vikings are targeting Bell, they would be looking at a fourth-fifth round pick spent. This may very well be doable, provided Spielman hasn’t already made a play for a defensive back in the first three rounds. Bell has the exceptional size and ball skills to be a force on the field, if only he can learn to let the game come to him a bit more.
Projected Draft Round: 4-5
Likelihood the Vikings are targeting him: Likely
Likelihood the Vikings could land him: Likely, but it will depend on when Spielman picks up more defensive back talent
Best Traits: Size, Ball Skills, Physicality
Biggest Drawbacks: Reads, All-or-nothing play