Our NFL rookie profile series continues with this analysis of 2023 NFL Draft Prospect Tank Dell, WR from Houston. We will continue to provide you with these in-depth rookie profiles and a ton of other fantasy football rookie analysis right up through the NFL Draft. Stay tuned, and stay ahead of your league.
For years, the NFL was a big man’s game. Teams only drafted receivers who were 6’2” or taller, but the years of the league being ruled by the Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones-type receivers may be behind us. Instead, we appear to be at the dawn of a new NFL, where sub-6’0” receivers often have multiple Pro Bowl seasons. The question now is: with the NFL embracing a new small and shiftier breed of receivers, can the truly tiny players such as Tank Dell ever produce elite seasons for fantasy, or are they doomed to a middling slot role like that of Rondale Moore and Tutu Atwell?
Dell is currently viewed in the third-round tier of wide receivers and as nothing more than another pint-sized dart throw. He is never going to be an alpha receiver in the NFL, but his speed and elusiveness could allow him to be a productive slot receiver should he get adequate draft capital and go to the right opportunity.
Courtesy of Sports Reference.
The Florida native was a five-star recruit coming out of CC High school before signing with Alabama A&M in 2018. As a true freshman, he appeared in only four games for the Bulldogs, racking up a total of 12 receptions for 364 yards and three touchdowns, 204 of which came in one game against Alabama State – his college career high.
After his freshman year at Alabama A&M, he transferred to Independence Community College before transferring again to Houston for the 2020 season. As a sophomore, he played in eight games, hauling in 29 receptions for 428 yards and three touchdowns. The best game of his season came against Hawaii in the 2020 New Mexico Bowl where he rushed for 112 yards and one touchdown on six carries as the Cougars fell 28-14.
His junior season with Houston saw his playing time increase to 12 games played. He managed to catch 80 passes for 1,179 yards and an impressive 12 touchdowns. Dell had a number of monster games on his way to a breakout senior, recording 130 yards receiving on three separate occasions in the regular season and once again in the 2021 American Athletic Conference Championship Game against Cincinnati – nine receptions for 152 yards and one touchdown.
In his final season with Houston as a senior in 2022, he played in 12 games and led all of college football with 103 receptions – good for 1,354 yards and 15 touchdowns, all career highs. Once again Dell had a number of off-the-chart breakout games as he went over the 120-yard mark on five separate occasions, with his season-high being 13 catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns against SMU.
His elite production powered Houston to a bowl appearance and win against the University of Louisiana in the 2022 Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl where he caught six passes for 44 yards and two touchdowns.
Drafting diminutive receivers in fantasy leagues has become increasingly popular over the past few seasons but has been met with mixed results. The New England Patriots have had significant production out of smaller slot receivers such as Wes Welker and Julian Edelman while other teams have seen busts out of players such as Tutu Atwell and D’Wayne Eskridge. Very rarely do these receivers produce as rookies and they normally take multiple years to develop into their slot role and to learn the ins and outs of the NFL game but Hunter Renfrow is another great example of what can happen when they hit their ceiling.
Dell will not require a high rookie pick to obtain and should be easily draftable in the late second round or early third round but the chances of him hitting are not going to be a bet you want to make. Just look back to 2022 rookie drafts at players such as Wan’Dale Robinson and Calvin Austin, who were also smaller receivers with elite production in college that did little to nothing in their rookie season. Austin lacked opportunity while Robinson struggled with injury but it just goes to show you that in order for this archetype of player to hit, everything needs to go perfectly for them.
Even if a team falls in love with Dell and overdrafts him like the Giants did with Robinson, he is not a player with a high probability of success at the next level. As far as rookie picks go, there are far more profitable options in his ADP range.
This highlight reel does a great job of showing his speed and breakaway ability. He frequently hauls in long touchdown passes and is one of the best receivers in this class at taking the top off a defense.
He has elite speed and acceleration, and his straight-line speed is unmatched in this class. He is also one of the most precise route runners in this class and executes his routes with crispness and elite proficiency.
He operated almost exclusively as a slot receiver in college and figures to do so in the NFL. On occasion he showed the ability to play on the perimeter but this isn’t going to be a winning wager for him in the NFL. Teams should strictly use him in the typical shifty slot receiver role as that is what suits him best.
Once he gets the ball in his hands, he is as dynamic as they come and is a genuine nightmare to bring down. He has a level of shiftiness that few in this class can even attempt to match and is a genuine yards-after-catch machine.
There are few receivers in this draft class who can match him as far as speed and agility go but his size is going to be a major red flag. If he is able to secure day two draft capital, he could become usable for fantasy managers but he is best passed on in rookie drafts. Let someone else take the low-percentage gamble on him.
At the 2023 NFL Combine, Dell did little testing aside from the pure speed drills. His 10-yard split time was among the most elite in NFL history, while his 40-yard dash time left much to be desired at 4.49. While that 40 time is certainly adequate, it only grades out as slightly above average which is particularly surprising given his college resume. As far as height and weight, he grades about as low as historically possible in each which is his main concern, although his broad jump was impressive for a man of his size.
Overall, it was not an impressive combine for Dell. He measured below average in the areas where he was expected to be below average, but the disappointment came in the speed drills where he was expected to clock in with elite times and instead registered only average times.
His size makes him a long shot to find success at the next level, while his unspectacular combine results have him all but erased from my board.
Courtesy of DLF’s March Superflex Rookie ADP.
He currently ranks as WR11 while sitting as the 3.12 pick in rookie drafts. It’s surprising that he hasn’t dropped much in drafts after his lackluster showing at the combine but it goes to show just how many fantasy managers will ignore reason in order to draft the speedster. All of the concerns I had going into the draft were realized to their fullest extent and subsequently he shouldn’t be drafted anywhere inside of the first three rounds of rookie drafts.
Limited size is not typically overcome in the NFL and in the back half of the third round, I would rather take my shot on a stash quarterback such as Stetson Bennett, Max Duggan or Tyson Bagent. There just isn’t a lot here to give much hope for the future.
Courtesy of DLF’s ADP Comparison Tool.
The chart above shows four of the most recent players drafted who received significant draft capital but checked in at or below 5’8”. As you can see, the bottom quickly fell out for Jaelon Darden and Deonte Harty while managers are still holding out hope that Moore and Robinson can be fantasy-relevant. Speaking as someone who rosters both in a dynasty league, they too will plummet in value if they don’t bring a return on investment this season. Even at their peak, none of the four receivers managed to find their way into the top 100 picks and are more likely to go closer to pick 200 or be found on the waiver wire.
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