It’s difficult to criticize an NFL team’s seventh-round pick. Let’s face it; general managers are throwing darts at that point. So when the Chicago Bears selected Kennesaw State defensive lineman Travis Bell, the reaction was a pretty straightforward, “We’ll see.”
Pro Football Focus has other ideas.
In their breakdown of the biggest reaches from the 2023 NFL Draft, Bell is the pick that stands out in the seventh round.
“Bell didn’t feature on the final PFF big board, but he did still have enough flashes in college that the Bears shouldn’t be too worried about this being viewed as a reach,” PFF’s Gordon McGuinness wrote. “He produced PFF run-defense grades of 80.0 or better in each of the past three seasons, and his 30 reps on the bench press suggest he has enough strength to develop.”
Bell was one of Ryan Poles’ favorite selections. He gushed about him in the Chicago Bears’ post-draft press conference.
“He is passionate about the game,” Poles said. “When you talk about having a full-time job during the season and showing up to the locker room in your clothes, with your ID badge and your little knife from his job, that tells you what the game means to him. He’s working and football and practice is recess to him, and those are the guys that we want.
“He plays hard. He goes sideline-to-sideline like he said. That is not a lie, and it stands out on tape. I love the intensity that he plays with. And again, that’s going to make us better. Coming out of high school, the guy played d-line, running back, linebacker, fullback, everything. You could see that in the way that he moves.”
I don’t blame PFF for thinking Bell was a reach. Few analysts had him on their draft board. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote that Bell “might need to fight for a spot as an undrafted free agent” before the NFL Draft. So, sure, Bell getting selected is a bit of a surprise.
But the Chicago Bears conducted business their way in 2023. They targeted players with specific physical traits — size, length, athleticism — and mental traits — leadership, hard work, and desire. Travis Bell checks all the boxes and was a worthy NFL draft pick.