Due to his recent re-signing, Blake Bell will continue playing for the Chiefs but as a fullback hybrid?
If we’re devising a projected 53-man roster in early June, the three tight ends would probably be veteran All-Pro Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, and Jody Fortson.
And there is a possibility that Blake Bell still makes the roster.
Bell, who will be 32 by the time the 2023 season starts, is entering his ninth season in the NFL. He’s already spent three seasons with the Chiefs, winning a Super Bowl back in 2019-20 and then returning to Kansas City for 2021 and 2022 after a season with the Dallas Cowboys. Bell played in just 3 regular-season games last season due to injury, limited to two receptions for 20 yards and the first regular-season touchdown grab of his career.
The #Chiefs are re-signing TE Blake Bell to a 1-year contract, source said. This is his fourth season with KC.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 24, 2023
In the Chiefs’ recent playoff run, Bell had one catch out of two targeted throws for four yards in the Divisional Round against the Jacksonville Jaguars before being a healthy scratch for the AFC Title Game and Super Bowl LVII.
To find a place on the roster for Bell, the Chiefs should consider moving the nine-year player to fullback during the offseason training program.
At 6-foot-6, 252 pounds, he’s taller than your traditional fullback, but his competitive toughness and willingness to succeed in the moments when given the chance shouldn’t be ignored. If he can make the transition, Andy Reid and Matt Nagy should look at it as an opportunity to dressing three or four tight ends on game-day with Bell able to play both spots or jumping in at either spot should a player go down. Rhett Ellison, the Vikings and Giants former H-back was known as the tallest fullback in NFL History to date standing at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds.
Rhett Ellison retired today after an 8 year career with the Vikings & Giants.
118 catches 1189 yards 7 TD
1 carry 1 yard 1 TD
Hope all is well and a better next portion of life! Here’s all 7 TD catches for Ellison! pic.twitter.com/tEg7JUstRa
— Bobby Skinner (@BobbySkinner_) March 9, 2020
The fullback role is a limited role in the Andy Reid offense, primarily in short-yardage situations, plus the occasional wheel route. But fullbacks have traditionally been important to the special teams’ units — often or most of the time playing on all four phases of special teams. The Chiefs lost Michael Burton to Denver this offseason, so who will Andy Reid turn to next or will he even have a fullback on the roster in 2023?
Remember, Bell is used to contact. Dating back to his college years, playing QB for the Sooners in both starting and complementary roles. Known during that to be used almost exclusively in the so-called “Belldozer” package for short-yardage and goal-line situations. He’s also the team’s best in-line blocker on the team and has shown the ability to execute the QB sneak in place of Patrick Mahomes.
I will say the Blake Bell short yardage play is slick. Because it causes the backers to shift, open the spot they want for a QB sneak basically and the backers are late to react and fill. pic.twitter.com/9uFBXShTvw
— Nick Jacobs (@Jacobs71) September 15, 2021
We’ll see what happens when we get to training camp. It could be an experiment but it’s good for Bell to understand defenses from a running back perspective as well as a tight end perspective. It will make him better in the long run.
In his scouting report coming out of Oklahoma by Bleacher Report, scouts said he’s a power player with good body control and leg drive to get into his routes and pick up yards post-catch. He played some in-line tight end, showed a willingness to block in the run game and is Athletic enough to play some fullback or H-back, depending on the system.
This is further proof along with limited opportunities given to Bell in Andy Reid’s scheme over the years should help his case to pursuing the role left vacant by Michael Burton.
However, it won’t necessarily be called the fullback but more… H-back. The H-Back was once a popular position in football that has seen a bit of a resurgence in recent years. The position was first introduced by the legendary Joe Gibbs. It was later on renamed as the F-Back, but most coaches will still call it the H-Back. It’s a sort of a hybrid between a tight end and a fullback.
H-Back Arrow Screen on the Backside of Wide Zone pic.twitter.com/HeXGRJwFGI
— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) May 6, 2023
The H-Back is mostly used to block but can also used catch passes and even carry the ball from time to time. The player who plays the position should have a nice mix of skills between a tight end and a fullback and Blake Bell fits the bill.
Example of this is from the 2021 Week 7 blowout loss at the Tennessee Titans when Burton got injured. Blake Bell lines up in a H-Back role (behind RG Trey Smith) pulling through the hole as the clip below shows. He does a great job singling out targets and does not hesitate to shoot his arms out from his body and meet defenders in running lanes with force.
Game flow took #Chiefs' run game out early, but this was the best rush of the day
Counter with Trey Smith kicking out and Blake Bell (at FB for injured Burton) pulling through hole
Kelce's quick fake block on DE sets Smith up with a great kick out opportunity. Well-run play pic.twitter.com/7NHQqB29WP
— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) October 26, 2021
Also in this clip shows evidence of what should make the Chiefs consider Bell as their fullback hybrid. He has heavy hands and does a nice job of keeping them inside, and controlling the defender. He is a finisher as a blocker, he is not satisfied until the defender is on their back or the whistle has blown like the block for Mecole Hardman in the 2020 AFC Title Game against the same Titans team.
Woo, Blake Bell went hunting on that end around run by Mecole Hardman pic.twitter.com/5Gp4P9MwWV
— RIP Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) January 19, 2020
Bell will play a similar role to the one Kyle Juszczyk did for John Harbaugh in Baltimore: a fullback/tight end hybrid that lines up anywhere and serves as a hammer in the running game while contributing something as a receiver.
Just a simple boot with a delay but I like the 49ers set it up with motion.
– Deebo Samuel starts out as a stacked receiver then motions to other side and runs flat
– FB Juszczyk motions from backfield to H-back and runs delay
– Good job from QB of getting hips around to left pic.twitter.com/9i3t9MK4n1
— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) January 22, 2020
On special teams, Bell served as an interior gunner on the Chiefs’ punt and kickoff coverage units and was also used as a right side blocker in front of the return guy in the kick return game. Bell played a lot of special teams in 2021 so expect to see him on the unit a lot in 2023.
If the Chiefs are hoping to keep Bell on the roster while only keeping three tight ends maybe even four including Blue Springs native Kendall Blanton, moving either Blake Bell to fullback will likely be the best way to do so. At 6’6”, he’s tall for a fullback, who brings 252 pounds to the point of impact, where his technique and leverage make him an excellent lead blocker candidate for the Chiefs’ ball carriers this upcoming season. And while Bell will never stand out on the stat sheet, as evidenced by his 65 total career touches, he will continue to play the role the coaching staff asks him to play at a high level.