During the 2016 draft, the New Orleans Saints pulled off a trade with the New England Patriots to move into the 61st overall pick to select defensive back Vonn Bell from Ohio State. Bell moved almost immediately into the starting lineup his rookie year, starting 14 of his team's 16 games and finishing second on the team with 83 tackles.
Bell played poorly through training camp and preseason last summer as he entered his third season, causing him to be supplanted in the starting lineup by Kurt Coleman as the season began. Like the rest of the secondary, Bell struggled mightily at the start of the regular season, giving up big plays in bunches. He quickly started to play better by each week though, and by midseason had taken over the bulk of the safety snaps away from the disappointing Coleman. He finished 2018 with a career high in total tackles (88) and solo stops (62), which were both second on the team and tops among defensive backs. Bell has finished either first or second on the Saints in tackles in all three of his professional seasons.
He has always been a solid safety near the line of scrimmage and inside the tackle box. Bell had 4 tackles for loss along with a quarterback sack in 2018, and was instrumental in helping New Orleans finish second in the league in rush defense. Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded Bell's run defense at 88.2, third among all NFL safeties in 2018. He efficiently attacks the offensive backfield, and has proven to be an extremely effective blitzer throughout his short career.
Bell was targeted by the Saints in the draft because of his playmaking abilities while at Ohio State. He intercepted nine passes in three seasons with the Buckeyes, including six in 2014. Incredibly, Bell does not have a single interception in three NFL seasons. His coverage skills have improved greatly over each season however, and have reflected in his rankings within Pro Football Focus. PFF gave Bell a 68.3 grade in 2018, ranking 39th among 67 safeties. Bell's overall grade from PFF was 75.3, 27th out of 101 defensive backs at the position. The 24-yr. old safety played better in coverage as this season progressed as well, often capably taking on an opposing tight end or even wideout out of the slot. While he hasn't been the ballhawking presence the Saints had hoped for when drafting him, Vonn Bell has evolved into a solid all-around defensive back, and a key cog in one of the NFL's young and rapidly improving defense.