2023 NFL Draft

Senior Bowl Interview: Despite His Size, Houston WR Tank Dell is Emerging as a Top Receiving Threat

Houston wide receiver Nathaniel ‘Tank’ Dell has been overlooked throughout his career. After facing challenges in securing commitments from FIU and USF, he bounced between Alabama A&M and Independence Community College before finally receiving a chance at the FBS level with the University of Houston. Under Houston Head Coach Dana Holgerson’s guidance, the explosive Dell flourished, becoming one of the top receiving threats in the nation with 182 receptions, 2,476 yards, and 25 touchdowns over the past two years.

Dell demonstrated his exceptional route-running skills during the Senior Bowl’s WR/CB 1-on-1 periods, consistently creating significant separation with a combination of tempo, foot speed, and his ability to stop on a dime. He was a standout during the first two practices, but chose to sit out the third day.”

This all comes naturally for Dell but it doesn’t mean he still doesn’t have things to prove.

“I’ll say it’s like a God-given ability, but I always still work on it and try to perfect it every day much as I can. I take pride in running routes and getting separation. I know the knock on me is like ‘you’re too small’ and things like that. So, just going outside and working [against] bigger DBs and showing them I can get open is a big thing to me.”

Dell’s focus is now on his body composition after weighing in at 163 pounds during Senior Bowl weigh-ins. Needless to say, the number of NFL players who have succeeded under 170 pounds is limited, but it’s something that Dell is working on as he prepares for the NFL combine late this month,

“I’m still improving my weight by the week. I’m still pounding on weight. By March I want to be at least 170.”

The added weight would certainly be welcomed by teams and Dell alike to sustain the general physicality of the professional game.

The first day of practice offered a physical WR/DB 1-on-1 session, marked by numerous defensive holding and interference penalties. Despite this, Dell’s speed and agility were evident as he frequently eluded the defensive backs’ attempts to grab or chuck him. Despite his impressive performance, Dell’s smaller frame has led teams to view him as a slot receiver in the NFL.

“I’ve been told I’ll likely play as a slot like I did in college. I went outside for the 1-on-1s to show I can play outside too, even against press coverage. But in the NFL, I think I’ll primarily be a slot receiver.”

While Dell was taking care of his own business, leading the nation in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in 2022, he also wanted to help his teammates succeed on and off the field. It’s a big reason why he was elected a team captain after only two years in the program.

“I feel like I’m a natural-born leader. I lead by example, that’s first and foremost. You gotta lead by example. You can’t tell somebody to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself. So I lead by example, but also off the field helping people with studying and making sure they know what they’re doing. So when we get on the field or if we are on the field, helping them get lined up, telling them if they need help with their routes, letting them know.”

Enhancing an already impressive skillset with leadership qualities is always a plus. The Pittsburgh Steelers, known to value former college captains, could potentially find Dell appealing as a wide receiver. As long as his weight does not become a concern, he may be a player worth watching in the middle rounds, as a potential slot receiver for the team. With Pittsburgh struggling to generate yards after the catch, someone like Dell would be a welcome addition to the roster.

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