Browns coach Kevin Stefanski really believes in David Bell

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski felt compelled to remember Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta something important during the NFL draft.

The message had this mood: David bell no matter what.

DePodesta revealed on the team’s radio network on draft weekend that Stefanski had texted him about a request midway through the second round to pick Bell 99th overall in the third round.

Everything has borne fruit, and Bell has vowed not to take Stefanski’s faith for granted.

“To have the confidence of the coach, I know I have to keep building that out here by making games, how I walk around the facility and how I treat people,” Bell said Friday during rookie minicamp.

When Bell arrived at team headquarters in Berea the day after his call-up, Stefanski told him he had also pushed general manager Andrew Berry to secure Bell.

“You were the first guy I watched and right away I was like, ‘We’ve got to get this guy,'” Stefanski told Bell in a meeting shown on Building The Browns, the team’s television and web series. “You can ask our GM. I was like, ‘This day has to end with David Bell on our team.’ Just your ability to catch the ball, which I think is the best in the draft, your ability to open up and just who you are as a person, that fits with who we are.

The Browns are confident in Bell’s ability to make an immediate impact as the first-team All-America consensus receiver transitions from Purdue University to the professional level. They hope to use it as their main slots receiver. He filled the role occasionally as a college star, but mostly played on the outside where Stefanski will also use him at times.

“It’s going to be a little tight out there with the linebackers, dropping the defensive line and stuff like that, but I definitely know how to adjust to that,” Bell said. “I played a little bit indoors at Purdue, so it’s not too much of a difference.

“I think [playing the slot] gives you a little more freedom. You really don’t have that defender right in the face. He’s about 5 to 6 meters away so you can tip him over and have a lot more room to create.”

Cleveland Browns rookie wide receiver David Bell sees a pass during the NFL football team's rookie minicamp in Berea on Friday.

David Bell will have a chance to fill the roles that Saints wide receiver Jarvis Landry had with the Browns

Bell is still in the early stages of his NFL career. He is eager to improve against a friend and Greg Newsome II, former Northwestern University cornerback, the Browns’ pick for the 2021 first round, during future practices at the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. He focuses on learning Stefanski’s playbook and terminology.

At this early stage, no one is suggesting Bell will be a five-time Pro Bowl pick Jarvis Landrybut the Browns clearly envision using him in a similar fashion. landry spent the last four seasons with Cleveland and was cut in March due to cost concerns. He signed a deal Friday to join the New Orleans Saints and signed his contract on Sunday.

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“[Bell is] a very competitive player,” Stefanski said after the first of three rookie minicamp practice sessions, the last of which ended on Sunday. “Catches the ball really well. We thought he had some skill.

“If you look at the blueprint, there are so many people that could fit, and you’d better have a lot of people that fit into your scheme. It’s really about what properties you can exploit, so to speak. We found he was really competitive at catching and has some versatility to play outside and inside.”

An obvious opportunity to succeed Landry is enticing to Bell.

“I don’t wish I had gone a little higher [in the draft]’ said Belle, who graduated from Purdue on Sunday. “God put me in this perfect situation. Come to the browns. Be on a phenomenal offensive. I’ve got a great running game, great passing game and arguably the best quarterback in the league right now. So I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to get out of there and hopefully I’ll have that chance to start in week 1.

Cleveland Browns rookie David Bell is gearing up for more action in the slot than he’s had with Purdue Football

As the receiving corps stands straight, four-time Pro Bowl pick Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples Jones are projected to start on the outside with bell in the slot.

“All the receivers in our room have their own unique talents,” Bell said, “and I think mine is finding weakness on defense.

“I’m very proud of… just being able to make those competitive catches and also the awkward catches that most receivers can’t make.”

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Cleveland Browns rookie wide receiver David Bell cools off during the NFL football team's rookie minicamp in Berea on Friday.

No, Bell isn’t fast by NFL standards. His 40-yard dash times of 4.65 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine and 4.71 at Purdue’s Pro Day in March were central to his draft stock, which stands out from his elite collegiate production.

“I don’t really think it’s going to be a problem for me,” Bell said. “I was never the fastest going back to high school and college, but I do take a lot of really hard looks at my craft. I like to be very technical when it comes to how to beat defenders and I’m proud of that. Knowing I’m not the fastest, I have to find different ways to win.”

Bell started 26 of his 29 games at Purdue and mustered 232 catches for 2,946 yards and 21 touchdowns. He set a school record with 17 career 100-yard receptions and averaged an FBS-leading 101.6 receiving yards per game over his three college seasons. He recorded a career drop rate of just 4.7% (11 total passes lost).

Cleveland Browns wide receiver David Bell participates in a practice session during the NFL football team's rookie minicamp on Friday, May 13, 2022, in Berea, Ohio.  (AP Photo/David Dermer)

Browns rookie David Bell believes his basketball background in basket-mad Indiana has aided his football journey

Bell, a state champion in basketball and soccer, said he first fell in love with baskets, but he knew by his freshman year at Warren Central High School in Indianapolis that he would pursue an NFL career. From Bell’s point of view, one sport contributed to the success of the other.

“On the basketball court, it’s a lot of lateral movement, so as a receiver it definitely helps to laterally move defenders,” Bell said. “And besides, when you point the ball up and punch out, it’s like snagging a rebound.”

Bell, 21, has been voted a first-team All-Big Ten for the past two seasons. As a junior last season, he was the Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year, which goes to the conference’s top wide receiver.

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A trio of Big Ten recipients without the Bell name were drafted in the first round last month. They are Garrett Wilson of Ohio State and Penn State’s Chris Olave and Jahan Dotson. The New York Jets picked Wilson 10th overall, the Saints picked Olave 11th, and the Washington Commanders picked Dotson 16th.

Bell and Olave practiced together building up to the draft Athlete’s house, a state-of-the-art facility that Landry frequents in Weston, Florida. Bell has known Wilson since high school. Bell is from Indianapolis and Wilson is from Texas, but they were teammates in a seven-a-side tournament in California.

“To be able to beat these guys [for the best receiver in the Big Ten] and to surpass them last season is definitely a huge achievement for me,” Bell said. “It’s something I’ve aspired to.”

What’s going to be a lot more important going forward is who has the better NFL career.

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Cleveland Browns wide receiver David Bell participates in a practice session during the NFL football team's rookie minicamp on Friday, May 13, 2022, in Berea, Ohio.  (AP Photo/David Dermer)

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com.

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