The rookie-to-NFL-superstar comparisons are getting crazy this offseason.
San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke selected converted tight end and former quarterback Blake Bell out of Oklahoma in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Some wondered if the move was a bit of a reach, considering Bell’s “project” label.
After recent comments by Baalke, however, it’s clear the 49ers have ridiculously high hopes for the man who earned the nickname “Belldozer” as a Sooner. After prefacing the following remarks with, ““I never make comparisons,” the GM did just that:
“When you look statistically at Jimmy Graham and you compare his college statistics to Blake Bell’s, I think you’ll see that they’re very similar, right?” Baalke said, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Once again, that’s a Pro Bowl tight end. He’s had a heck of a career. Not making that comparison at all.”
Nope. Not at all. No comparison there. Just a bunch of words that, independently, don’t compare Bell to Graham. Thanks for the quotable quote, Mr. Baalke.
In all seriousness, though, Bell and Graham are comparable, strictly from a coming-out-of-college point of view:
- Both players spent just one year at the tight end position in the college ranks before vaulting into the pros—Bell a converted quarterback and Graham a successful basketball player for the University of Miami.
- They are approximately the same size. Both players are 6’6″, with Bell weighing eight pounds less than Graham, per their respective NFL combine weigh-ins.
- Both are exceptional athletes who have the aforementioned size/height to overpower and out-jump most NFL defensive backs and linebackers.
- As Baalke mentioned, they posted similar stats in their only year at college at the tight end position. Bell caught 16 passes for 214 yards and four touchdowns, while Graham posted 17 catches for 213 yards and five touchdowns.
One important thing to note as it relates to this comparison is that Bell is a dominant run-blocker, whereas Graham has always been just good enough to not be a liability.
Of course, none of this means anything right now.
Bell still has a lot of hard work to put in and needs plenty of good luck before he can be mentioned in the same breath as Graham, a perennial All-Pro. Furthermore, it remains to be seen if Colin Kaepernick will take a big step forward after a season of backtracking in Jim Harbaugh’s final year.
But if Bell does develop, and if Kaepernick can realize his full potential, then the 49ers will have a gold mine on their hands.
Photo: USA Today Sports