Le'Veon Bell Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for Michigan State RB

Ryan Lownes@@ryanlownesFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2013

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 29:  Running back Le'Veon Bell #24 of the Michigan State Spartans rushes the football against the TCU Horned Frogs during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium on December 29, 2012 in Tempe, Arizona.  The Spartans defeated the Horned Frogs 17-16.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Le'Veon Bell

Pittsburgh Steelers

Second Round, 48th Pick

After leading the nation in carries as a junior, Le’Veon Bell wisely chose to declare for the NFL draft rather than add more mileage at Michigan State.

Possessing ideal size and underrated athleticism, the Big Ten’s leading rusher in 2012 looks the part of an NFL running back.

Can Bell carry the load, though, and become a feature back at the next level? Or will he be seen as a complementary player in a committee?

Strengths Weaknesses
+ Tremendous balance, very strong - Lacks breakaway speed
+ Excellent size at 6'1", 230 pounds - Average acceleration and burst
+ Good power, can punish defenders - Pass protection needs work
+ Capable receiver with a wide catch radius - Questionable vision, decision-making



A big back with a sturdy, muscular build, Bell measures 6’1 3/8” and tips the scales at 230 pounds. It appears as if he slimmed down a bit in the offseason, however. At Michigan State, he became accustomed to playing at weights roughly 10 pounds heavier.

For his size, Bell is an excellent athlete. He was able to turn some heads at the NFL Scouting Combine with a very solid overall workout. Though not a blazer, he turned in a respectable 4.60 40-yard dash. Due to average burst and acceleration, he may not be a home run threat, but is a long-strider with speed that can be deceptive.

He was one of the strongest running backs in Indianapolis, bench-pressing 225 lbs 24 times. Other results from his workout include a 31.5” vertical jump, 9’10” broad jump, and 4.24 short shuttle. As evidenced by a surprising 6.75 three-cone drill, Bell is fairly fluid and agile with some short-area quickness.

Additionally, he put on a nice show for scouts at his pro day in March, earning high marks for his athleticism.



While he helped himself by declaring for the NFL draft, Bell dealt with an incredible workload in 2012. By season’s end, he had not missed a game but battled through a nagging shoulder injury.

Both on and off the field, he is very confident. He appears to be a solid teammate and will be a welcome addition to any NFL locker room.



Michigan State runs a very traditional, straightforward Big Ten offense. The Spartans typically utilize a Power-I formation on running downs, with Bell lined up directly behind the fullback. In Mark Dantonio’s system, he also took hand-offs from shotgun and occasionally was spread out wide. The offense simplified in 2012 without three-year starting quarterback, Kirk Cousins.



While Bell has done a nice job at creating yardage for himself, his vision and decision-making have been questionable at times. In the backfield, he displays some agility and patience for his blocks to develop. He is a good one-cut runner, but average vision handcuffs his ability to make big plays.

He is occasionally guilty of being too indecisive or hesitant. When his vision is impaired in traffic, he will blindly spin at times, missing opportunities as a result.

It is worth noting that the Spartans' offensive line lacked athleticism and had their fair share of problems, so Bell often had to wait on his blocks.


Passing Game

In one of the strongest areas in his game, Bell excels as a receiver out of the backfield. He catches the ball naturally and possesses a wide catch radius. Though not without the occasional drop or sloppy route, he impresses with his versatility.

Bell has proven to be assignment-sound and willing in pass protection, but is sometimes late to react. His blocking technique needs work as he frequently sells out for initial contact, failing to lock out pass-rushers and steer them from harm’s way.  Lack of a second effort and the tendency to leave his feet lands his quarterback in hot water.


Running between the Tackles

Bell has excellent balance to break tackles and stay on his feet. He is strong in both his lower and upper body. Between the tackles, he is generally an effective runner capable of grinding defenses down. His combination of size, agility and balance allows him to be an effective in short-yardage situations.

A big target for tackles due to his height and upright running style, Bell is not able to make himself skinny in the hole and has a habit of running into his blockers



Equipped with light feet for his size and good lateral agility, Bell is capable of eluding defenders. He demonstrates some wiggle when he encounters isolated defenders, whether in space or in the hole.
Not just a one-trick pony, he shows some stop-start ability and even flashes a quick spin move.
Occasionally he dances around too much, trying to make people miss when he should put his nose down and grind out a few yards. At roughly 240 pounds, that can be a very frustrating quality.

Perhaps it had something to do with his workload or a difference in weight, but Bell appeared quicker and more elusive earlier in his college career. 



When he wants to, Bell showcases tremendous power by lowering his shoulder and punishing defenders. He keeps his legs churning, gaining yards on contact. Even when running too high and giving up leverage, he still displays power. At times, he also uses a strong stiff arm to fend off would-be tacklers.

As noted in the section above, Bell has a frustrating tendency to dance around too much despite his strength. He is at his best when he is decisive and finishes runs.


Future Role/Scheme Versatility

A big, powerful runner with average speed and burst, Bell may be most effective at the next level if complemented by a smaller, faster back. He will likely appeal to NFL teams using a man-blocking scheme, but might have even more potential as a one-cut zone running back. Right now, I would be slightly concerned that he lacks the vision for that scheme; however, the offensive line at Michigan State did him few favors last season.

Because Bell does well when he is asked to run block, he could be seen by some teams as a bit of hybrid between running back and fullback.

Also worth noting, he has some kick return experience and may be able to contribute on special teams.


Draft Projection: Late second to early fourth round 


    Haden on Pass Defense Woes: 'It's a Communication Thing.'

    Pittsburgh Steelers logo
    Pittsburgh Steelers

    Haden on Pass Defense Woes: 'It's a Communication Thing.'

    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
    via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Giants Release Brandon Marshall

    NFL logo

    Giants Release Brandon Marshall

    Tim Daniels
    via Bleacher Report

    Why Griffin Can Be a Versatile Chesspiece

    NFL logo

    Why Griffin Can Be a Versatile Chesspiece

    Tyler Dunne
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: Peyton Didn’t Want to Call Eli's Games

    NFL logo

    Report: Peyton Didn’t Want to Call Eli's Games

    Adam Wells
    via Bleacher Report