We learned this week that the Buffalo Bills hosted wide receiver Nathaniel “Tank” Dell on a top-30 visit before the 2023 NFL Draft. Buffalo is in the market to add another wide receiver to the group with only five on the roster, not counting the projected practice squad players.
While it’s likely the Bills try to add talent to the group in this year’s draft, I think they should target one during the first two days — and Tank Dell is a projected Day 2 pick.
We’ll dive into some analysis on Dell in a moment, but it’s worth mentioning that I find it a touch confusing why Buffalo hosted Dell on a top-30 visit. That’s not because I think he isn’t talented (because he is), but because he’s only 5’8” and 165 pounds. The Bills aren’t afraid of going after smaller receivers like Deonte Harty (5’6”, 170 pounds), Isaiah McKenzie (5’8”, 164 pounds), Jamison Crowder (5’9”, 174 pounds), and Cole Beasley (5’8”, 174 pounds) to name a few recent players. The kicker is that Buffalo recently signed Deonte Harty and then later cut Isaiah McKenzie after general manager Brandon Beane made comments about making sure the Bills didn’t have “too many duplicate skill sets” at the receiver position. If Beane already cut a smaller receiver after signing Harty, why would the team be interested in bringing in another smaller receiver?
Dell is anything but a “tank” on the field. The undersized receiver is a rocket who flies all over the place. He is a shifty, explosive, and crafty route runner who can eat up cushions and challenge leverage at all stages of his routes.
Let’s dive into some analysis!
Tank Dell NFL Combine Results
As mentioned before, Dell measured in at 5’8” and 165 pounds. He has 30 1/2” arms and 8 5/8” hands. Here are the results of his combine drills:
- 40-yard dash: 4.49 seconds
- 10-yard split: 1.49 seconds (this is exceptional)
- Broad Jump: 10’1”
I thought he would run faster than a 4.49-second 40-yard dash, because his play speed looks faster than that number. Even though his 40-time was slower than expected, his 10-yard split matches up with his game speed. Dell’s stop-and-start skills are next level. He can be seen consistently stopping on a dime and then motoring past defenders in route running or with the ball in his hands.
Dell only tested in three events, but he did participate in the field drills portion and looked smooth throughout. He was able to showcase his supreme quickness, advanced route running, and soft hands.
Houston WR Tank Dell 4.50 forty yd pic.twitter.com/pyrHh3yPSL— Coach K | Keith Sanchez (@TheTalentCode) March 4, 2023
Tank Dell Gauntlet#NFLCombine pic.twitter.com/jU7MKogDV0— WalkTheMock (@WalkTheMock) March 4, 2023
Tank Dell at the Senior Bowl
Tank Dell was invited to participate in the highly regarded Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL this year. His practices were a thrill to watch. All week Dell was playing at a different speed than the rest of the players there. His route-running dominance was put on display for all to see in one-on-one drills and he was basically unguardable. Not only does Dell have a good understanding of how to stem his routes and use leverage to beat his defender, he is also crafty in his footwork at all levels of his route. At the snap, you can see Dell using a plethora of releases that keep defenders guessing. He also incorporates sudden stutters in the middle of his route that often cause defenders to get off balance. My favorite aspect of Dell’s route running is that he challenges leverages by defenders and stems his routes to get the defender into a position where he can use it to his advantage. Let's watch some route-running highlights from the Senior Bowl.
Have watched lots of @seniorbowl 1-on-1’s over the years, not sure we’ve ever seen this scissor move release.— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 9, 2023
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Tank Dell is just different.#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ pic.twitter.com/jjVfMCI1gr
His release is just spectacular on this route. He lulls the defender into thinking his release will be outside by cross-stepping to the left and then uses a scissor move to get back inside, untouched. At the top of his route, Dell gives a quick jab to the inside to sell the post route, which makes the defender fall down and then breaks it off outside.
TANK DELL IS SPECIAL— MLFootball (@_MLFootball) April 4, 2023
His release and speed is INSANE
Truly one of one. Teams are glowing about Dell. @Tankdell4, @JimNagy_SB, @NessMugrabi, @IanGrutman, @davidcanter, @GSEworldwide pic.twitter.com/SsKueMZSVf
This is a compilation of some of Dell’s one-on-one routes at the Senior Bowl. His ability to stop-and-start is very evident in this video, he looks to be a step ahead of everyone.
Tank Dell’s College Career
The Dayton Beach, FL product played one season for Alabama A&M before transferring to the University of Houston and churning out a lustrous three-year career for the Cougars. Here are his career statistics at Houston:
- 2020: 29 receptions, 428 yards, 3 TDs
- 2021: 90 receptions, 1329 yards, 12 TDs
- 2022: 109 receptions, 1398 yards, 17 TDs
In 2022 Dell was a team captain, AFCA Second-Team All-America, Biletnikoff Award Semifinalist, and the national leader in both receiving yards and touchdowns. Tank Dell has been a bona fide playmaker for two years now and he’s electric with the ball in his hands. He lined up both inside and outside in college but likely will fit predominantly into a slot role in the NFL. He also offers some upside as a kick/punt returner — he returned one punt for a touchdown at Houston.
Dell’s separation skills are NFL-ready, and they might already be advanced even at the NFL level. He can run any route on the tree and does it with creativity. His long speed is good enough, but his short-area quickness and acceleration is where he excels. He fits into a gadget slot receiver role who can also be used as a high-volume slot receiver with “take it to the house” upside.
His slender frame, small catch radius, and trouble with physical coverage are a concern for his potential in the NFL and is likely why he won’t be drafted in Round 1. I’m not sure if Dell could be a team’s WR1, but he would add an exciting playmaker to any offense.
Here are some clips from his college career:
How many defenders did he leave grasping at air in this clip? I count six.
No one touches this guy lol— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) April 4, 2023
His tape is littered with plays like these - it got old, I wanted to see him in 1on1s at @seniorbowl and he really blew me away. Tank Dell is a different type of sub 170lb WR pic.twitter.com/xgCIp2vv6K
Making slant routes at the goal line look easy.
Nathaniel “Tank” Dell , 5’8 - 165lbs— IAmMontyFetti ✊ (@WestsideFetti) April 6, 2023
- FBS Receiving Yards/TDs leader (‘22)
- Led FBS in Yards/TDs btwn ‘21 & ‘22
- 1st Team AAC Conference WR (‘21 & ‘22)
- 29 Rec. TDs over last 2 seasons
There’s a reason why he’s one of my favorite WRs from this class & a Day 2 steal pic.twitter.com/VBjsNyHWTf
Dell can win at all levels of the field.
Nathaniel “Tank” Dell is a special talent and it pops on film when you watch him play. His play speed is through the roof and he has an elite understanding of how to get open, which is huge in the NFL. These traits will serve him well and I expect him to contribute immediately wherever he goes. His size is the number-one thing that seems likely to push him into Day 2 of the NFL Draft. I would be excited to see him make plays in a Buffalo Bills uniform, but I do have concerns over having “too many duplicate talents” at the receiver position, just like Beane said. I figure the Bills won’t draft Dell unless the value on the board is undeniable. At the same time, it’s hard to pass up such a dynamic route runner and play maker.
I am 100% advocating for the Bills to add wide receiver talent in this year’s draft, but I suspect that it will only come when the “value is right.” Tank Dell is definitely one receiver to monitor on Day 2 for Buffalo if they should go a different direction in Round 1.