As wide receivers had their turn on Friday, March 3 in revealing to the media which NFL teams have spoken to them, one of the more explosive wideouts at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine revealed he’s had a formal meeting with the San Francisco 49ers — a wideout described as a “touchdown-making machine.”
Per 49ers analyst Brad Graham of The SFNiners, Nathaniel “Tank” Dell from the University of Houston shared he met with the Niners.
Despite his size at 5-foot-8, 163-pounds, Dell flamed defensive backs to the tune of 35 career touchdowns for the Cougars. He also left “H-Town” by hauling in 90 and 109 receptions in the 2021 and 2022 season, respectively. And again, he earned the moniker of “touchdown-making machine” by draft expert for nfl.com Lance Zierlein.
“Every second of the route is a separation opportunity for Dell, a touchdown-making machine who pairs electrifying top-end speed with twitchy short-area quickness,” Zierlein wrote in his evaluation. “His routes are fast and effective on all three levels with keen ball-tracking talent deep and sideline-dotting footwork.”
‘Tank’ Reacts to Thought of Playing in Kyle Shanahan’s Offense
While wide receiver isn’t considered the most pressing need in the ’23 draft for the 49ers, the very thought of Dell catching passes in a Kyle Shanahan-led offense is still an explosive and enticing thought. Dell himself was asked about his possibility of suiting up in that style of offense.
“I love it,” Dell told Graham at Lucas Oil Field. “I’d love to get that opportunity. They get the ball into the receiver’s hands fast and I feel like I can make explosive plays. If that’s the case, then yeah, I’d love it [playing in S.F].”
With this kind of release and route running, he would open up an already potent offense even more especially from the slot:
He’s also executed a “flat China” route made popular by Super Bowl 56 Most Valuable Player of the Los Angeles Rams Cooper Kupp and Las Vegas Raiders Pro Bowler Hunter Renfrow.
But in an offense that features the “YAC brothers” of Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk, Dell would blend in easily with his yards after catch prowess on display here versus No. 4 Cincinnati:
As dynamic Dell is, Zierlein pointed out two flaws to his game.
“Focus drops and contested catches are ongoing issues that are likely to continue at the next level,” he wrote.
But, when the drops are non-existent, it’s a much different story for the Cougar.
“Dell is dangerous with the ball in his hands after the catch and as a game-changing punt returner,” Zierlein said. “His slender frame is a concern, but the explosive talent could be difficult to pass up for teams needing a big-play weapon to stretch the field and mismatch coverages.”
He’s been given this NFL comparison: Darnell Mooney, the same Mooney who was a 1,000-yard WR in 2021 and hailing from the same conference that produced Dell, the American Athletic Conference.
In his final college season, Dell posted 10 games of hauling in seven catches or more — and that includes three games that saw him grab 10, 12 and 13 receptions. He delivered six 100-yard games in 2022. But he earned his TD making machine title off this: Producing six games of scoring two touchdowns last season. There’s already 49er analysts having chills with the thought of Dell in the 49ers’ offense.
“Tank Dell would be a lot of fun with the 49ers. Arguably the biggest riser of the Senior Bowl with slot/KR versatility could be a big hit for San Francisco,” said Sterling Bennett from 95.7 FM The Game in the Bay Area.
Graham added “I’m HYPED on this one” regarding Dell speaking with the Niners.