When the Buffalo Bills signed RB Joique Bell from Wayne State as an undrafted free agent, most Bills fans yawned and went on discussing left tackle, whether Buddy Nix has a plan, and the woeful QB carousel that is Fitzrohmwards. Could the Bills, already loaded at running back with Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, and first-round pick C.J. Spiller, really use another running back?
We know new Bills head coach Chan Gailey is going to run the ball. We also know that Marshawn isn't a lock to be on the team tomorrow, let alone come opening day. Additionally, there's a chance we eschew having a traditional fullback on the roster for a double-tight end look. However, even if Marshawn stays with the Bills all year, Bell has a chance to make a real splash on this team, now and in the future.
The 5'11", 223-pound Bell put up 8,055 all-purpose yards, including 6,728 rushing yards, at a small Division II school called Wayne State. Bell had 88 combined touchdowns, and he rushed for over 2,000 yards in a season twice, including 2,065 rushing yards as a redshirt freshman. With his 2,084-yard, 29-touchdown 2009 senior season, he earned the Harlon Hill Trophy as the best player in Division II.
However, this isn't your typical "guy who puts up monster stats at a small school yet can't cut it athletically at the next level." According to this interview, Bell turned down scholarships from FBS schools such as Michigan and Michigan State because they viewed him as an athlete - and wanted him to play safety. This demonstrates that Bell has some serious athletic skills. Physically, Bell runs with a very low pad level and center of gravity. He rarely loses body control because of his well-built lower half. Bell uses his superb lateral quickness to pick his way through the defense at the line of scrimmage. When you watch Bell run, he's very hard to bring down because he combines the ability to bounce off tacklers with a smooth ability to evade them. This isn't Xavier Omon, folks.
So why didn't Bell get drafted? Three reasons: a 4.6-second 40-yard dash time, weak competition, and his running style. Bell's compact and controlled running style, where his top half barely moves, gives the illusion that he's running slower than he actually is - almost like he's jogging. When you watch Bell, he never gets caught from behind, which seems to suggest that his play speed is faster than his timed speed.
With Fred Jackson approaching the death sentence that is 30 years of age for NFL running backs and Marshawn Lynch's job in Buffalo tenuous at best, we could be entering the time period where a combination of Spiller and Bell terrorize defenses. Here are some highlights of Joique Bell's college career:
RB Joique Bell's college football highlights (via Detroitbanger22)