From Kadarius Toney, Hunter Renfrow, and Rondale Moore, to 2022 draftees in Calvin Austin III and Wan’Dale Robinson, the selections of smaller, high-impact pass-catchers have become an annual trend of the NFL draft cycle. Versatile prospects who won’t blow you away vertically by any means, their short-area quickness, sure hands, and electric open-field ability have become a must for each of the 32 franchises across football. This fall, the conversation starts and stops with Houston’s Nathaniel Dell.
A talented wideout no more than 165 pounds soaking wet, he’s next in line as one of college football’s elite offensive chess pieces. The leading pass-catcher for the Cougars last fall, it didn’t matter who, or whom, aligned opposite of the 5-foot-10 talent, he was going to get his—there was nothing defensive coordinators could do about it.
A redshirt junior this fall, his relationship with quarterback Clayton Tune is what makes his potential stat line, and in turn, his draft projection, so intriguing. Tune, who amassed 3,546 yards passing with 30 touchdowns last fall, has only shown improvement within Dana Holgorsen’s aerial barrage. With Dell coming off a season in which he totaled six 100-yard games, including a 152-yard outing against the NFL-littered secondary of Cincinnati, you begin to understand the intrigue.
“I set high goals for myself that most people will doubt me on,” Dell said. “But I set them for myself so that I can attack them every day and help myself get better, help the younger guys get better and push my teammates.”
Whether it’s a post-corner against a bigger, more physical defender where Dell is consistently able to stack, out-leverage, and marionette defensive backs at the top of his route, or a simple tunnel screen where Dell’s vision, explosiveness, and agility shine in the open field, there isn’t a box he fails to check. Whether he’s aligned in the slot, out at X, or on occasion, in the backfield—where the threat of him getting the ball moves and slides defenses out of their base coverage—Dell gets the job done. The elder statesmen of a receiving core that includes just one player (KeSean Carter) with more than one year of college experience under their belt, the onus on Dell to lead the Cougars’ offense once again remains paramount if Holgorsen’s group looks to make their way back into the Top 25 after ranking as high as No. 16 in the AP Poll last fall.
Although the names and likeness of power five standouts in Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, USC’s Jordan Addison, LSU’s Kayshon Boutte, and Texas’ Xavier Worthy will draw headlines and become household tongue before the meat of the season, pay close attention to Nathaniel Dell, one of the nation’s most explosive playmakers and a modern-day offensive weapon that fits the mold of many of the NFL’s most compact pass-catchers scattered throughout the league.
- Jun 24, 2022
- Jun 24, 2022