Browns ‘Forgotten’ Playmaker Poised for Breakout Campaign

David Bell, Browns

Getty Wide receiver David Bell of the Cleveland Browns runs after a catch during an NFL game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in September 2022.

The Cleveland Browns spent considerable capital enhancing the wide receiver room this offseason, though the most meaningful upgrade may come from a player who was already on the roster.

The NFL has a short memory and fosters an unforgiving ecosystem of fierce competition, which allows players to tumble from the “next best thing” to “yesterday’s news” in a matter of games. Wide receiver David Bell was fairly well-hyped entering his rookie campaign, after Cleveland selected him with the No. 99 overall pick in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Bell was positioned to compete with Donovan Peoples-Jones for the No. 2 spot behind leading man Amari Cooper. Instead, he finished sixth on the team in receiving with just 214 yards on 24 catches — a yardage tally that set him behind both aforementioned receivers, starting running back Nick Chubb and the team’s top two tight ends, David Njoku and Harrison Bryant.

The Browns’ addition of Elijah Moore at the cost of a second-round pick, as well as the signing of free agent speedster Marquise Goodwin and the drafting of promising rookie Cedric Tillman could push Bell further down the stat sheet. The other possibility is that their collective presence will motivate Bell to produce the kind of sophomore season that will force the doubters to forget about his underwhelming entrance onto the NFL stage last year.

David Bell Poised for Leap in 2023, Appears Big Part of Browns’ Future

David Bell, Browns

GettyWide receiver David Bell of the Cleveland Browns makes a catch during an NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals in October 2022.

Such is the prediction of Bleacher Report’s Christopher Knox, who contended on Sunday, June 25, that Bell is among the most likely second-year players to make a leap after an unremarkable rooking campaign.

Browns fans probably haven’t forgotten about David Bell, the 2022 third-round pick who played 47 percent of the snaps as a rookie. However, outsiders probably don’t know his name.

Fans should expect the Browns to push Bell for playing time, even with the new additions in the fold. Peoples-Jones is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and Cooper could be a 2024 cap casualty.

Bell has a chance to be a big part of Cleveland’s future, and with a strong training camp, its present too.

Bell is only 22 years old and will play the second season of a four-year, $5.1 million rookie deal with the Browns in 2023.

David Bell Won’t Start for Browns Right Away, May Contribute Big Before Season Ends

David Bell, Browns

GettyWide receiver David Bell of the Cleveland Browns catches a pass during an NFL preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles in August 2022.

Moore is now in the fold and presumably positioned to compete with Peoples-Jones for the No. 2 job, with the third spot falling to the loser of that competition. Given that context, Bell isn’t a good bet to start for Cleveland — at least not in Week 1.

However, Mary Kay Cabot of reported last week that Bell is all but a lock to retain a spot on the roster after training camp concludes at the end of August.

“Bell is still in great standing with the club and will make the 53-man roster,” Cabot wrote on June 22. “[Head coach] Kevin Stefanski loved him coming out of Purdue last season and still sees the same tremendous potential in him as a slot receiver in the mold of Jarvis Landry.”

There is a chance Bell will play his way into a major role in 2023, perhaps even into a starting role at some point. And, of course, there is the ever-present eventuality of injury on every NFL roster that more or less guarantees Bell will get a shot or two this year to show what he can do, assuming he remains relatively healthy.

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