David Anderson, Jacoby Jones, Trindon Holiday, DeVier Posey, Keshawn Martin, Jaelen Strong, Braxton Miller, Keke Coutee, Isaiah Coulter...Nathaniel “Tank” Dell.
The Houston Texans have a way of drafting wide receivers post-first round that bring a big scoop of talent, excitement and electrifying potential. Then, those same receivers never live up to the hype...at least not in H-Town.
Hindsight being 20/20 and all, it’s easy to look back after the fact and point to things that were giveaways that those players wouldn’t live up to the hype. However, had they gone elsewhere and developed into pro bowlers, the same could be said for the things that clearly indicated the potential for future greatness.
Tank Dell fits that mold to the “T”.
The guy is so elusive that the word “elusive” can't even keep up with him.
His speedy direction changes, his lightning quick burst, his dragster-like acceleration, his innate ability to slip through defenders is nothing at all like a tank - more like a ghost. He’s here one split second, gone the next.
When you watch him play, you can’t help but feel amazed at his speed.
But, then you look at the actual stats, and tilt your head to the side because it just doesn’t add up.
Tank Dell runs official 4.49-second 40-yard dash at 2023 combine
While 4.49 is faster than you, me, or likely 90% of the rest of the humans on planet Earth, in NFL wide receiver terms, it’s not all that.
At the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine, Will Fuller V ran the 40-yard dash in an official time of 4.32 seconds, which was the best time among wide receivers.
...the average 40-yard dash time of NFL wide receivers is 4.53 seconds...
WR John Ross (2017) – 4.22 Seconds
WR Rondel Menendez (1999) – 4.24
WR Marquise Goodwin (2013) – 4.27
WR J.J. Nelson (2015) – 4.28
WR Tyquan Thornton (2022) – 4.28
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (2009) – 4.30
One thing you should notice from this list of fleetest wide receiver feet is the lack of notability. This list has no Andre Johnson, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Marvin Harrison, Larry Fitzgerald or DeAndre Hopkins.
Randy Moss, the exception not the rule, allegedly ran a 4.25. Calvin Johnson a 4.35 and Jerry Rice a 4.71...
All that to say, “football speed” and straight line speed are not one and the same.
Tank Dell has “football speed”.
The question is, can he get on the same page as new Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud and offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik? Can he learn the route tree? Will he put in the work to be the “best teammate he can be?” Will he earn the trust head coach DeMeco Ryans and general manager Nick Caserio placed in him by selecting him in the third round with the 69th overall pick?
The vision of Dell torching the Indianapolis Colts secondary, embarrassing the Tennessee Titans defensive backs and giving the Jacksonville Jaguars defenders friction burns as he blazes past them all twice a year sure is exciting.
The reality of what Houston has seen with non-1st round receivers over the years not so much.
Hopefully, Dell is the exception. The player that proves the DeMeco Ryans era is different. The poster child for the new Houston Texans. A team that wins, and wins in spectacular fashion.
Thankfully, it’s the off-season still. We can choose to believe in the vision of Tank Dell doing a Flash impersonation across NFL fields. We don’t need to face the memories of DeVier Posey drops, or Jalen Strong dope arrests, or Jacoby Jones game-shattering fumbles.
We can just close our eyes and watch Tank Dell light up NRG Stadium with the electricity his wheels generate on the way to touchdown after touchdown.