San Francisco 49ers: 5 Young Players to Watch in 2016
4. Blake Bell
Bell is a former college quarterback, who played for Oklahoma and stands 6’6″ weighing 252 pounds. He has a great feel for playing the tight end position, probably due to throwing to them. He understands what his quarterbacks are looking for and where they want him to be. This is similar to how Ryan Tannehill operates in Miami. Having been a college receiver has helped him progress during his career.
What makes Bell due for a breakout season?
As a college senior, Bell caught 16 passes for 214 and scored four touchdowns. He had an average of 13.4 yards per catch. Those are explosive numbers for tight ends at any stage of their careers, much more so for a converted quarterback in his first season playing the position.
In his NFL debut season, Bell caught 15 passes for 186 yards for a similar 12.4 yard per reception average. He has the type of explosion, catching a 48 yard pass in week 12 versus Arizona, that NFL teams look for in today’s tight ends. He also showed an ability to improvise as this particular reception happened on a broken play.
Bell may be a project at this point, but I expect him to develop very quickly as Chip Kelly is great with offensive players.
B. Coaching and Scheme
Ryan Sakamoto, of NinerFans.com and member of the Pro Football Writers of America, wrote a great article detailing Chip Kelly’s ideal tight end. He then tweeted about it:
In the article, Sakamoto discusses personnel groupings, blocking, receiving and how it all fits into Kelly’s offense. He notes that Bell is raw, but that he has the potential to thrive in the offense. Bell is raw because he is transitioning, and how does one transition from one position to the next?
C. Work Ethic
We all know that to transition from quarterback to tight end one must be up to the challenge. They must work hard to learn the fundamentals of the position and then hone their craft.
Back in January Joe Fann, Team Reporter for 49ers.com, wrote a great article on Blake Bell recapping his rookie season in the NFL.
The article really captured the essence of Bell’s work habits. This is what Bell had to say, first about his rookie season and second about the work he and his teammates put in.
"“I thought it was pretty good,” Bell said to summarize his first NFL campaign. “There are a lot of things I can get better at, that I can take into the offseason and work on. I feel like at least getting out there and getting some good playing time has been pretty good for me. It will help me in the long run.”"
"“The whole tight end position group, all those guys have helped me out in different ways. All of them have done a great job of teaching me different things throughout the year,” Bell said. “Going into the offseason, I need to keep on working and keep getting better.”"
That last line, “Going into the offseason, I need to keep working and keep getting better”, really nails it on the head. Players that know they must work are the ones who succeed. Talent only carries you so far in the NFL as well as life.
Bell wins the No. 2 TE job and posts career highs in catches (35), yards (400) and touchdowns (3). During camp he’ll be competing with No. 1 TE Garrett Celek, who will retain his job, and newly converted fullback Bruce Miller who also knows a thing or two about position changes (because he played defensive end in college but has been a fullback in the NFL until this year).
Next: 5. Trenton Brown