How much faith do the San Francisco 49ers have in third-year TE Vance McDonald? Apparently not much as the team drafted rookie TE Blake Bell in the fourth-round (No. 117) of this year’s NFL Draft.
The player known as the “Belldozer,” it’s Bell’s versatility that will likely solidify him a spot on the team’s 53-man roster while also likely being a key special-teams contributor his rookie season. A converted quarterback turned tight-end, the ‘Belldozer’ can add value in more ways than one. A skill-set that 49ers’ GM Trent Baalke covets, do not be surprised if Bell also sees the field in goal-line packages as he had tremendous success in that capacity while at Oklahoma.
However, while Bell can be the team’s swiss army knife, he will still have to show that he can shine at his primary position which is tight-end.
A position that already has two-time Pro Bowl TE Vernon Davis, third-year veterans McDonald and TE Derek Carrier, along with four-year veteran TE Garrett Celek, the 49ers appear set at the position.
But with McDonald doing little to prove himself as a solid backup while Celek has been battling back/ankle injuries which forced him to miss 13 games last season, that opens the door for Bell to set himself apart.
Bell understands spacing which is one of the reasons the team drafted him in the first place. Whether running a seam route or finding soft spots in zone coverage, Bell is a zone buster who can win 50-50 balls against safeties. Not to mention he has the competitive spirit and drive to become a fast learner of any offense, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bell saw the field sooner rather than later.
During the NFL scouting combine, Bell displayed his athleticism as he ran a 4.80 second 40-yard dash, boasted a 33-inch vertical, and blazed a 4.32 second short shuttle. Measurables that should not go unnoticed as Bell stands 6-6 and 252, it’s now up to the 49ers coaching staff to help turn that potential into on-field success.
With the 49ers gearing up for training camp on Monday, it will be interesting to see how Bell develops as he will be looking to solidify his spot on the 53-man roster.