Nathaniel Dell is often called “Tank,” but that moniker couldn’t be further from the truth. The redshirt senior from the University of Houston measures only 5’8″ and a measly 165 pounds. “Tiny” may be a closer descriptor than “Tank” could ever be. Despite the small stature, Dell was one of the most productive wide receivers in the nation. Does he have what it takes for the NFL, or will the size hold him back? Let’s take a look!
- College: Houston
- Height: 5’8″
- Weight: 165 lbs
- Hand Size: 8 ⅝ “
- Age: 23
- Year: RS Senior
- Draft Projection: Third Round
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.49s
High School & Personal Life
Nathaniel Dell is from Daytona Beach, Florida, and played for Mainland High School. According to 247Sports, he was a two-star recruit and ranked outside of the top two hundred prospects for the state of Florida. He received only one offer from Florida International University but played for Alabama A&M his freshman year. After one season with Alabama A&M, Dell transferred to Independence Community College.
Dell finally reached the D1 level when he transferred to the University of Houston for the 2020 season. During a COVID-shortened season, Dell had 29 receptions for 428 yards in only eight games. In his final two full seasons at Houston, Dell eclipsed 1,000 yards and at least 11 touchdowns in both years. In 2022, his 1,355 yards were good enough to lead all of the FBS.
Get Off The Line Quickness
One of the best parts of Dell’s game is his ability to get off the line and have defenders in a blender with three steps. His short-area quickness and fluid hips are a dangerous combination for opposing corners. One of my favorite stories from my time at the Senior Bowl was when the defensive backs were doing one-on-one drills with the wide receivers. None of the defensive backs volunteered to get a rep against ‘Tank.’ This is because they knew it was a rep they would lose, and they didn’t want that tape as part of their resume.
Dell ran ‘only’ a 4.49 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. To many, this was much slower than expected when you consider his frame. The number we should be concentrating on is his 10-yard split. This number came in at 1.49 seconds, which was good enough for the third in this class. If you watch the tape, Dell’s acceleration is elite, and he consistently wins routes by outracing corners. He can quickly create separation if he gets one or two steps on you. That acceleration and his elite steps off the line will be a deadly combination at the next level.
With Dell’s size, you would assume he mostly played out of the slot, but that would be wrong. Houston used him all over the formation, in the slot, out wide, and even in the backfield. As seen in the clip above, Dell was also a weapon in the return game. This is a sign of an offensive coordinator knowing he has a great player on his hands and trying to take advantage. I would be more worried about Dell’s size if we saw him locked into one role at Houston.
Areas To Improve
Dell did have almost 20 drops over his final two seasons at Houston, with a career drop percentage of nearly ten percent. Drops are not a very sticky stat, which can easily be fixed with some extra time spent in drills. However, some will mention that his 8 ⅝ inch hands probably have much to do with the number of drops we see on his profile.
The most apparent knock on ‘Tank’ Dell’s profile has to be his frame. At 5’8″ and 165 pounds, he will easily be one of the smallest players on the field. The list of wide receivers who have succeeded with a similar frame is almost non-existent. By drafting Dell, his NFL team will be banking on the fact that he will be the one outlier amongst a track record of not-so-great players.
Level of Competition
The other big knock on Dell’s profile was the competition he faced throughout his five years of college. Group of Five opponents doesn’t hold a candle to Power Five opponents regarding the talent level you will see on the opposing defense. All-Star events like the Senior Bowl are an excellent place to get a taste, but it cannot replicate an entire season in a conference like the SEC.
Age & Lack Of Early Dominance
Dell is an older prospect who will be 24 during the start of his rookie season. That is very old for a player just entering the league. The other concern is how many schools and years he had to play in college before breaking out. We would much rather see a receiver with an early breakout age. From an analytics perspective, these are both big knocks on his profile.
Projected Draft Capital & Role
According to the NFL Mock Draft Database, Dell is projected to go in the third round. Second-day draft capital would be a massive upgrade for his fantasy football implications and chances of seeing the field his rookie year. The earlier we see a player on the field, the quicker we know if they can last at the NFL level.
Dell’s role for his NFL squad is as a complimentary receiver. There is no way a player of his stature can take over most of an offense’s target share. Dell can be deployed in the slot and even moved around the formation to other positions. Dell can be unlocked as a fantasy weapon if he can land with an offensive coordinator who is creative enough to utilize his skillset. A crucial part of his game at the next level will be moving Tank around to avoid a situation where more significant defensive backs can get their hands on him.
Dell is currently my WR8 in this draft class. However, he falls within a tier where he can rise or fall anywhere from WR6 to WR11. Landing spot and draft capital will be determining factors for his final ranking. He is a player I will be on the watch for in the late second into the third round of my dynasty rookie drafts.
My big concern for Dell at the next level is if he will be pushed around and bodied by the many bigger defensive backs on the field with him. It will help if he lands with an offensive coordinator who is creative enough to move him around to guarantee the defense can’t get their hands on him before he has the opportunity to get open. Fortunately, with those quicks, it won’t take Dell very long to get open.
However, if Dell lands on an offense that is not taking advantage of his skills, he is a player I will be moving off of in 2023. If he is being bullied around during the first month of the season, that is signal enough for me that this experiment won’t work out. He is a talented enough player to have one or two boom weeks as a rookie. I would be looking to sell immediately following any of those weeks.
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I hope you enjoyed this rookie profile. Be sure to check back often, as I will cover all fantasy-relevant positions. For more content like this, follow me on Twitter @DanT_NFL. DMs are always open for questions, comments, or craft beer recommendations!