Blake Bell will still admit that he's still coming into his own as a tight end. Bell just finished his second season at the position after spending a majority of his college years playing quarterback at the University of Oklahoma.
The San Francisco 49ers fourth-round pick in 2015 saw his role grow as his rookie season went on. Bell appeared in 14 games and made five starts thanks largely to a trade of Vernon Davis and injuries to Garrett Celek and Garrett Celek.
Bell also has himself to thank for his active rookie season. The tight end continued to progress as a pass catcher and became a viable option for San Francisco's offense. Bell ultimately finished the year with 15 catches for 186 yards.
"I thought it was pretty good," Bell said to summarize his first NFL campaign. "There are a lot of things I can get better at, that I can take into the offseason and work on. I feel like at least getting out there and getting some good playing time has been pretty good for me. It will help me in the long run."
The tight end's top moment individually came in a Week 12 home game against the Arizona Cardinals. Celek left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury and opened the door for Bell's longest catch of the year. On a second-down play in the third quarter, Blaine Gabbert found Bell on a crossing route near the left sideline. The tight end took off running for an eventual 48-yard gain. Bell's career-long reception set up an 8-yard touchdown catch by McDonald.
Bell was even more active in Week 15 against the Cincinnati Bengals. The rookie played a career-high 56 snaps and set career-highs in targets (eight) and receptions (four).
Apart from those personal season highlights, Bell tabbed the 49ers 26-20 overtime thriller against the Chicago Bears as his favorite game of the year. Gabbert hit Torrey Smith in the extra period on a 71-yard, walk-off touchdown to get San Francisco out of the "Windy City" with the victory.
"It what was a big game for the team, to fight through and win in overtime was great," Bell said. "(Bears kicker Robbie) Gould missing the field goal and then Blaine making that great throw. As a team, I'd say that was our best game."
The consistent level of elite competition is what Bell noted as the biggest transition from the college game to the pros. There are no easy victories that are often found when playing on Saturdays.
Bell credited his fellow tight ends for their help both on the field and in the film room preparing each week.
"The whole tight end position group, all those guys have helped me out in different ways. All of them have done a great job of teaching me different things throughout the year," Bell said. "Going into the offseason, I need to keep on working and keep getting better."
Bell will return to the SAP Performance Facility on April 4 for the beginning of San Francisco's offseason program. That's when Bell and the rest of his position group will begin working under the direction of new tight ends coach Jeff Nixon.