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2022 NFL Draft: Purdue wide receiver David Bell is a natural fit for today's NFL offenses

Purdue wide receiver David Bell won’t be labeled the biggest or fastest player at his position available in the 2022 NFL Draft, but the junior from Indianapolis is the type of player analysts and scouts describe as “natural” — someone who makes the game and position look easy. That’s been a theme in his football journey since the moment he picked up a ball.

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Bell averaged more than 100 receiving yards per game in each of the last two seasons for the Purdue Boilermakers. He racked up over 1,000 receiving yards as a true freshman and accomplished the feat again in 2021. If it weren’t for the pandemic-shortened season in 2020, he likely would have done it in every season of his career.

Since 2019, no player in the Big Ten has recorded more receiving yards.

Player School Receiving Yards Receiving Snaps Receptions
David Bell Purdue 2,977 1,303 234
Chris Olave Ohio State 2,649 1,249 170
Jahan Dotson Penn State 2,568 1,090 173
Garrett Wilson Ohio State 2,256 927 146
Ty Fryfogle Indiana 1,800 893 132

PFF's 2022 NFL Draft Guide notes the game comes easy to Bell — he “processes and executes like it's second nature.” At 6-foot-2-inches and 205 pounds, Bell has the requisite size to break tackles at the next level and has lined up all over the field for Purdue. His consistent production starting at such a young age and as the team's No. 1 offensive weapon have positioned him as a solid Day 2 prospect. 

Bell will soon have a chance to show how his natural ability translates to the NFL, but he's also aware there will be much more work along the way.

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER

Bell has been punching above his age class for as long as he can remember. Even back in elementary school, the older kids didn’t take it easy on him — and he never wanted them to.

“When I first started playing football, you can see the difference between me and the rest of the players on the field,” Bell recently told PFF. “As I got older, it stayed the same way. Even though like a lot of guys have caught up with them, they never really caught up with me. I was still always the best in the field.”

Bell started as a true freshman for Warren Central High School in Indianapolis — one of only two players in school history do so. Still, his teammates weren’t about to let a freshman walk in and think he’s the man. It didn't take too long for Bell to show his upperclassmen teammates how he could help them win. 

“At first, they didn't really welcome me because like, ‘OK, he's a freshman. He's not that good. He's gonna take my spot this and that,'” Bell said. “But I think after I made a few plays in practice, the receivers in the room really rallied around me and brought me under their wing like I was a little brother.”

Bell recorded 649 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns as a freshman in high school before racking up three straight 1,000-yard seasons with double-digit touchdowns. As a junior, he hauled in 52 catches for 1,075 yards and 11 touchdowns while also displaying his natural athletic gifts on the basketball court as part of an undefeated state championship team. 

As a senior, Bell caught 85 passes for 1,522 yards with 22 touchdowns en route to another state title (this time in football), earning Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year honors. 

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FOLLOWING FAMOUS FOOTSTEPS

At the All-American Bowl in 2018, Rondale Moore shocked the college football world when he chose Purdue over the likes of Texas, Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State. Moore was one of the top wide receivers in high school, and his recruitment was a big deal for the Boilermakers. Moore burst onto the college football scene as a true freshman with over 1,400 total yards and 14 total touchdowns. 

Having gone to high school only an hour or so away from the Purdue campus, Bell knew about Moore and liked that he was able to perform early in his college career. One year later, at the very same All-American Bowl, Bell followed in Moore’s footsteps and chose Purdue over Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa and Indiana

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“I think just seeing what they did with Rondale [Moore], understanding that I can come in immediately and possibly be of help,” Bell said. “Talking to coach Shephard, he said I had a chance to start as a freshman. I just had to work.”

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