Rookie Spotlight: Nathaniel “Tank” Dell
By Cody Folden
The Houston Cougars offense last year was run by Nathaniel “Tank” Dell. With 109 receptions, 1398 yards, and 17 TDs he was a force to be reckoned with in college football last year. Honestly, where would this offense have been without Tank Dell? His stats speak for that and Clayton Tune can thank Tank for a combine invite. Running a 40-yard dash of 4.49 seconds, and a broad jump of 10’1’’ only helped what was, again, a poor showing for receivers. Like Zay Flowers, he did everything he needed to do to keep, or rise, his draft stock.
Makes Defenders Miss
When he buys in, his routes are crispy. Watching his game against Tulane shows you everything you need to know about Tank Dell. One of those things, his comeback routes, are a thing of beauty. His plant foot is key. The way he disguises his break to be an in or out route and then it becomes a comeback route is everything you want to see. This definitely made his quarterback play better and a PSA for defenders, don’t watch the feet, watch the belly button.
Even though he is a little smaller in stature, 5 foot 8 inches, and weighing in at 165 pounds he is surprisingly physical. He will shadow defenders to get them away from the play because he needs constant eyes on him. He will also block, albeit, maybe not well but he will do it, and in the NFL all you just need to get in someone’s way for a play to break open.
In Game Speed
His combine time, as stated above, was 4.49. Wasn’t the fastest or the slowest at the combine, maybe a little slower for his height, but if you watch any of his tape you can tell he plays fast, knows what he is doing, and in the open field he will not be caught. His 10–yard split of 1.49 is more desirable anyways. You don't see 40-yard routes too often. You see 10-yard routes all the time. If Dell gets some separation he is going to catch it.
This is a big problem to have in most cases. Does Tank Dell have stone hands? Absolutely not. The reason for his drops is because of a small catch radius sometimes and his quarterback not being accurate, but the bigger reason is, he always wants to make a dynamic play. Sometimes he starts running/making a play before securing the most important part, the ball. With an accurate QB, good coaching, and a jug machine. This can be handled.
I know above, it is stated that his physicality is a strength. In my explanation you can see my case, any physical DB (which there are a lot of in the NFL) Dell could have some problems. He focuses on finesse and speed that some defensive backs can and will bully him around a little bit. Working on hand technique and bulking up a little bit should free him up.
There are multiple instances of Dell running a route and Tune throwing it to a different part of the field. This could be because Houston's offense doesn't have option routes and Dell optioned the route. I don't have that type of knowledge. I can tell you that Tune and Dell were not on the same page.
There are many games to choose from on behalf of what his stat lines were. 5 games over 120 yards receiving last year and with that 5 multiple TD games. In fact, the bowl game is the only game this year in that he didn't surpass 50 yards, but had 2 scores. My favorite game, however, and is mentioned above is the Tulane game. His Tulane stat line was 8 receptions 73 yards and 2 TDs. He was all over the field for the Cougars and this game showed all of what was talked about in this game. Did he have better overall games, yes, did he have better catches, also yes. This game showcases Tank Dell in his best light and even though it was a loss, (because of another combine invite Tyjae Spears, another workhorse) he may have won the day in showcasing his highs and lows.
Devante Parker, Brian Hartline
These two players are grinders. They worked for what they were and are in the league. Devante Parker does the dirty work and is a security blanket, you need a reception Parker is your guy. Brian Hartline had similar combine numbers as Tank Dell and Hartline had to prove his worth and played with Brandon Marshall and Ted Ginn Jr. What were those two guys? An alpha receiver and a deep threat. Brian Hartline was underneath and every route those guys didn't run. Tank Dell can be an alpha wide receiver but probably not right away. He needs to go to a team with receivers that can teach him to be a pro, and like Brian Hartline, be the top option at wide receiver.
As long as the rumors are true. Tank Dell can be an ideal fit in an offense with Cooper Kupp leading the way. Kupp is a consummate professional. Small school guy that has become one of the best wide receivers in the league. This is exactly what Dell will need. Having Sean McVay and Mike LaFleur as coaches is just the cherry on top.
This one is more of a long shot but I feel would be a good fit. In Tank Dell’s eyes, he can become the WR1 in this offense, especially if Lamar Jackson stays. Rashod Bateman needs competition. Draft a young guy and let them battle it out. It might possibly help both WRs prove their potential.
Another team that can fit Tank Dell’s skills. As stated above, it has all the boxes for Dell to succeed. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are perfect receivers to learn from and Dell could easily be the heir apparent to Lockett once he is done playing or gets traded. Do I see that happening, possibly because of age. Lockett and Dell also have similar profiles and would be a good player comparison.
This team is in full rebuild mode and needs a lot of work. The thing about the Titans that is most intriguing is Treylon Burks. He needs help, and Tank Dell would fall nicely into the WR 2 role for Tennessee, regardless if Ryan Tannehill is playing QB or not.
Cody Folden joined the Dynasty Pros team in 2023. He plays in many dynasty leagues but dabbles in other leagues like devy, contract, and scouting leagues. He loves to dive deep into learning about prospects coming up through college and seeing them thrive when they get to the league.