2023 NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Houston WR Tank Dell

From now until the 2023 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today I’ll be profiling Houston WR Nathaniel “Tank” Dell.

#1 NATHANIAL “TANK” DELL, WIDE RECEIVER, HOUSTON (JR.) 5110, 165 LBS.

Senior Bowl/Combine

MEASUREMENTS

Player Ht/Wt Hand size Arm Length Wingspan
Nathaniel Dell 5110/165 N/A N/A N/A
40 Yard Dash 10 Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
N/A N/A N/A
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press
N/A N/A N/A

 

THE GOOD

— Great straight-line speed with good hip flexibility
— Good in any vertical route situation, typically running past defensive backs
— Works well in the slot knowing good aiming points for splitting safeties
— Versatile at the position having worked at the X, Z, and the slot
— Has a great step off the line and releases well causing initial separation
— Great quickness overall being able to go east and west with ease
— Offers big play ability in deep ball situations
— Gives you huge boost in return game

THE BAD

— Very frail frame that is going to cause him issues in press man when bigger guys get hands on him
— Has little to no jump ball ability in his game
— Lacks a sizeable route tree while running a lot of go’s, curls, bubbles, and fewer in breaking routes
— Doesn’t fight through contact well after the catch, making it difficult to get many yards after contact
— Although high energy, doesn’t offer much blocking in the run game given his frail frame
— Doesn’t separate well downfield while coming out of his breaks, though he gets good release off the line
— Worked in heavy spread offense in college which will add to his already big learning curve in the NFL while learning a new offense
— Lacks the strength and size to consistently win on the outside 

Bio

— Junior prospect from Daytona Beach, Florida
— Three-star recruit by Rivals.com and 247 Sports.com
— Was No. 24 rated wide receiver in high school and No. 38 prospect in the state of Florida
— Nationally ranked No. 124 by 247 Sports
— After high school, went to Alabama A&M where he was redshirted after catching 12 balls for 364 yards and 3 touchdowns in 4 games
— Transferred to Independence Community College where, as a redshirt freshman, he racked up 52 receptions for 766 yards and eight touchdowns, 12 kick returns for 394 yards and one touchdown, 3 punt returns for 105 yards
— Finished 2019 with 1,278 all-purpose yards
— Transferred to Houston where he led the team with 29 receptions for 428 receiving yards and three touchdowns in the 2020 season
— 2021 First Team All-American Athletic Conference
— 2021 Dave Campbell All-State First Team
— 2021 had 12 receiving touchdowns ranking eighth nationally
— 2022 Houston Team Captain
— 2022 PFF Second Team All-American
— 2022 Associated Press Third Team All-American
— 2022 Biletnikoff Award Semifinalist
— Made 13 starts as junior in 2022
— 2022 national leader in receiving touchdowns with 17
— National leader in receiving yards in 2022 with 1,398
— In 2022 ranked eighth nationally in total touchdowns with 18

TAPE BREAKDOWN

Dell is a prospect that quite frankly you see a lot of in todays game. The classic small, frail, skinny frame slot receiver who lacks strength and doesn’t do much combat catching. He has a good release off the line and has good foot work. He’s a good runner overall, but everyone who studies this game knows that straight line speed doesn’t always win. His numbers are impressive, but Dell ran a lot of vertical routes in which he was able to just split the safeties, or even outrun a guy down the sideline due to his speed. I do like his ability to get open overall, but as previously stated, I think his lack of experience in different routes is going to affect him being able to get open against even above average NFL corners. What is impressive however (and its something that will benefit him greatly after catching the football) is how he can move after getting the ball in open field. He’s a chunk play guy and every team will be looking for that in April.

In the tape below you’ll get just a taste of how dangerous of a threat Dell can be with the ball in his hands. He’s a guy with good hands but Houston did a good job of working to get him the ball with space. He is so shifty and his east to west movement is so underrated. Here he takes a bubble screen a long way after the catch. For reference though, it isn’t like every guy is blocked up and he just goes off for a race. He has to make multiple moves making guys miss in order to get the splash the team was looking for.

In the clip below against Cincinnati in 2021, you get a chance to see him use the middle of the field to his advantage, knowing he’s singled up with a safety on the outside, then runs the post with the other safety on the other side of the field. It was a great play call and a great throw also, but for him to run this good route and get to the spot he needs is just his game. He really thrives at the intermediate to deep routes especially when he’s singled up and gets a chance to split the safeties at the top of the route. He owns man cover guys when traveling past 15 yards or so.

Here on this play against Memphis, you see an excellent example of his ball tracking ability. The quarterback throws a nice over the shoulder ball and Dell tracks it well and gets his feet in for the touchdown. His speed and footwork allow him the make a good cut on the corner route to give him just enough space between the back of the endzone and the defender to make an impressive catch for the score. His ability to separate also comes back to mind on this play. Great example of how to win using his speed on this play.

Something you’d like to see him add to his bag is going vertical to highpoint the football especially against these bigger defensive backs. This isn’t a poorly placed football by the quarterback, so even more reason in this specific play that if he goes up to catch this ball, that’s seven more points for the offense. He doesn’t have the longest arms or longest legs so he’s working with a below average body frame but given his athletic ability this is something he’s going to have to develop overtime to truly compete with other NFL receivers.

Dell’s super twitchy abilities would benefit him so greatly if he would learn how to use them. In this clip with Houston going in, at about the seven-yard line, Dell runs a shallow in-breaking route but in this instance, you’d like to see him use a little more awareness when getting into the endzone. If he sits down at the top of that route, then the quarterback hits him for a score. SMU plays man coverage here and the guy sitting on top of Dell gets lost in the shuffle in the defensive backfield, so he has at least three to four yards of space at the top of the route. If he learns when to sit in these zones, or extend the route, or even bend the route when needed, it will really complete his ability to get open weather or not his separation gets substantially better.

CONCLUSION

After being able to sit down and thoroughly decipher the tape behind Tank Dell, you know this is a guy you’d want on your team. His game is a little raw right now, but I think in time this is a kid you can see being a key role player and/or a team’s returner. His route tree needs some great development, but you can say that about a lot of players in the league and quite frankly it’s a quality of a lot of young receivers. He’s a guy with good hands but you’d like to see him catch more of those balls coming across the middle of the field. There is a lack of catch radius with him that you’d like to see improve especially given his overall athleticism. He also isn’t going to go up and grab contested catches out of the sky like some guys, so the fact that you can’t exactly throw balls up in the air and count on him ripping them away from defensive backs is a slight negative on him.

I believe it would be appropriate to call him a project but he’s a guy that could be absolutely worth the investment. Initially one might compare him to Calvin Austin but that seems basic, but I will use a lesser version of Tavon Austin. Dell does not have the same speed or agility, but physically and intangible wise these players are greatly similar. Pittsburgh is likely to add to the wide receiver room in the 2023 but given that this team just selected Calvin Austin III in last year’s draft (who’s seemingly a replica of him), I don’t see this being a match. This will be an interesting pick to watch for during the draft.

Projection: Early Day Three

Depot Draft Grade: 7.4 – Rotational player (4th round)

Games watched: VS. Cincinnati (2021) VS. Tulane (2022) VS. Auburn (2021) VS. Texas Tech (2022)

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