UNLV’s Beau Bell is still projected among the top senior linebackers in this year’s NFL Draft.
But he would be ranked higher overall if so many junior stars hadn’t chosen to skip their senior years for a chance to play on Sundays.
So instead of being a certain second-round pick for the draft on April 26 and 27 in New York, Bell was projected as a third- or fourth-rounder by ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. in a nationwide conference call Monday.
Kiper cited junior linebackers Erin Henderson (Maryland), Geno Hayes (Florida State) and Jerod Mayo (Tennessee) as the primary reasons Bell probably won’t go as high as originally predicted.
"It’s not a great position," Kiper said. "There are no guaranteed first-round linebackers. I think (Bell) will have to test well, which I think he will."
Bell and defensive end Jeremy Geathers, each listed at 6 feet 2 inches and 248 pounds, are the former Rebels who will attend the NFL scouting combine, which begins Wednesday in Indianapolis.
Bell said he didn’t know how much he would participate. He said he is recovered after hurting his left knee about three weeks ago during Senior Bowl practices, but said he has not had enough time to train because of the injury.
As for Kiper’s middle-round projection, Bell said he simply wants to be drafted.
"To tell you the truth, (the round) doesn’t really matter to me," said Bell, last season’s Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
Kiper said he sees Bell being an NFL starter within three or four years.
"Mel Kiper, with his caliber of analysis and being right so much, I appreciate the kind words he had to say," Bell said. "It really shows a lot of people out there have faith in me."
Geathers, leaving UNLV as a junior, is projected by Kiper as a late-round pick. Geathers said he hopes to go as high as the fourth round and follow in the footsteps of his cousin, Robert Geathers Jr., a former fourth-rounder who has played four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Geathers’ father, Jumpy, had 62 sacks during an NFL career that lasted from 1984 to 1996. His uncle, Robert Geathers Sr., played six seasons.
Jeremy Geathers said he would prove himself at the combine, saying running 4.6 or 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash would get him into the fourth round. He said he ran a 4.64 on synthetic grass Friday.
He also said he would bench 225 pounds "at least 30 times."
"I feel like I will be one of the strongest defensive linemen in the strength tests," Geathers said. "I’m definitely going to turn a lot of heads at the combine, I guarantee that."
Simply receiving a combine invitation shows that NFL scouts believe Geathers is a legitimate prospect, despite early beliefs by some experts he would have to sign as a free agent to make a club.
"When I came out, everybody looked at me like I was stupid or something," Geathers said.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 387-2914.