Tank Dell, WR, Houston | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Nathaniel "Tank" Dell was a dominant force in college football and has now been drafted by his hometown team, the Houston Texans. What does he give them?

Was Houston product Nathaniel “Tank” Dell one of the top WR prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft? Dell is an outlier with his size, but he might just have the traits necessary to be an exception to the rule and carve out a productive career with the Houston Texans.

Tank Dell NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Wide Receiver
  • School: Houston
  • Current year: Redshirt Senior
  • Height/Weight: 5’8 3/8″, 163 pounds
  • Length: 30 1/8″
  • Wingspan: 72 3/4″
  • Hand: 8 7/8″

Only one receiver in 2022 entered the bowl season with over 100 catches, over 1,300 yards, and at least 15 touchdowns. That receiver was Tank Dell. The tail end and equally important component of the Clayton Tune connection, Dell was one of college football‘s most prolific weapons over the past two seasons.

Across 2021 and 2022, Dell combined for 199 catches, 2,727 yards, and 29 touchdowns. He earned first-team All-AAC recognition in both years and was a fringe Biletnikoff Award contender for his production as a redshirt senior.

Dell was a dominant playmaker at the Group of Five level, and the path that led him to that stardom only makes his production all the more validating. Dell started at Alabama A&M in 2018, redshirting after picking up 12 catches for 364 yards and three scores in four games.

After Alabama A&M, Dell spent a year at the JUCO level before making the leap to Houston in the FBS. From there, Dell grew into the defensive nightmare he is today.

A Senior Bowl star, a preseason phenom, and now a major part of the Texans’ reworked offense alongside C.J. Stroud, what does Dell bring at the NFL level?

Tank Dell Scouting Report

Strengths

  • Explosive athlete with exceptional burst upfield and out of stems.
  • Smart, nuanced route runner who can press into stems and eat cushion.
  • Has outstanding hip sink, foot speed, and stopping ability on breaks.
  • Consistently extends beyond his frame to secure passes.
  • Has the high-end lateral twitch and foot speed to displace defenders on release.
  • Has shown he can rise vertically, contort, and convert on high-difficulty chances.
  • Exceptional ball-tracking ability over his shoulder on deep passes.
  • Slippery run-after-catch threat who can operate from multiple alignments.

Areas for Improvement

  • Extremely lightweight frame that can limit resistance to physicality.
  • Consistently goes down on first contact with lighter frame.
  • Can be prone to focus drops when threatened with contact over the middle.
  • Despite decent proportional length, overall catch radius is average.
  • Sometimes struggles to pry through tight coverage at the stem.
  • Doesn’t quite have elite breakaway speed, even with the lighter frame.
  • Doesn’t translate well as a blocker with frame.

Tank Dell’s 2023 NFL Outlook

On my board, Dell graded out as an early Day 3 prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft, but his elite separation ability and lateral twitch elevated him into the Day 2 range. He was ultimately selected with the 69th overall pick in the third round by his hometown team — the Texans.

Dell’s frame is extremely light, and that’s a notable complication for his projection. Although he’s a bit more physical than his frame would suggest, Dell is more easily fazed in contact situations than larger receivers, and at times, he struggles to separate against DBs who know how to use their physicality.

For Dell, it also hurts that while he has exceptional explosiveness and speed, neither trait is quantifiably elite. He can stack defensive backs, but he’s not always able to clear contact situations right away, and that can be a detriment for him.

This concern on tape was corroborated by Dell’s testing numbers. His 4.49 40-yard dash, 10’1″ broad jump, and 1.57 10-yard split were all visibly non-elite numbers, especially at his size.

Even so, Dell does have quantifiably elite agility and twitch as a route runner, and he’s also very fluid. He’s incredibly proficient at halting his momentum, sinking his hips, and eating cushion to manipulate DBs.

And with his agility and twitch, he’s a slippery RAC threat who darts and weaves through congested areas and makes use of space with his burst.

Dell already has a solid route tree and release package, with the athletic tools to make the most of it. As his Senior Bowl showing displayed, Dell’s more proficient than you’d expect against press coverage with his easy displacement ability.

Beyond that, he’s proven he can contort, extend beyond his frame, and make high-difficulty catches. And being part of Stroud’s rookie class, he and Houston’s new QB should have immediate chemistry.

Dell’s size may keep him from being a true premier threat in an NFL offense, but there’s undoubtedly a place for his skill set in a starting rotation. Out of the slot, on the boundary, or in motion, Dell can be a dynamic catalyst as a WR3 or rotational spark plug in the NFL. In his rookie season, that’s how he profiles best alongside Nico Collins and Robert Woods.

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