The Ohio high school track star turned UMass receiving weapon is ready for Sundays as few draft stocks have risen over the last nine months like Andy Isabella.
Call him a Biletnikoff Award finalist (because he was).
Call him a bolt of lightning (because he is).
Just don’t typecast him as only a slot receiver (because he is not).
Isabella can operate in the flats with his ability to gain quick separation. However, his speed and precise route-running give this UMass receiver a chance to be a starter in the right system.
He’s been working out with Hall of Famer Randy Moss this offseason. Even without Mr. Moss’ guidance, here is a look at what makes Isabella an interesting prospect.
Elite speed: Despite the ultimate in first world problems—a laser-guided timing mechanism not working properly—Isabella can fly. His 4.31 40-yard time at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis was among the best. His background as one of the fastest high school sprinters in the country surely helped prepare for his career as a receiver who just simply does not get caught in space.
What makes Isabella even more dangerous is his ability to change directions and shiftiness, which also makes him a candidate to return punts and kickoffs on Sundays.
Gets open: Isabella’s performance at the Senior Bowl, this past January, which ended with him being named North Team MVP, began with lots of praise for his work right at the line of scrimmage to gain separation. Isabella goes from quick-twitch footwork to sharp route running pretty seamlessly.
And it’s not limited to five- or seven-yard outs. Isabella is a menace running posts and stop-and-go routes. In the NFL, cornerbacks are going to try and jam him at the line a ton. This will make that footwork even more important to break into zone seams and break away from man coverage on timing throws.
Productivity: The numbers have been video-game-like the past two seasons for Isabella. In two years, he posted 167 catches, 2,718 yards, 23 touchdowns and named to the All-American team.
It would be easy (but also lazy) to look at his UMass uniform and assume his production was a result of lower echelon opponents. Isabella put up numbers, regardless of opponent. It won’t hurt that his last game at Georgia, against a SEC secondary, Isabella caught 15 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Leading the country in receiving yards this past year with three different quarterbacks to get on the same page with is no small feat either.
Size: Calvin Johnson, Isabella is not. Sporting a 5’9”, 188-pound frame, Isabella will have some doubters on draft day simply because he is not built like LeBron James. His size does, however, limit his role in the red zone and will never be a jump-ball guy.
Run blocking: Yes, it is 2019. And yes, teams do still run the ball outside of the hash marks. Isabella puts his nose into defenders on run plays, but his ability to sustain a block when the run goes to his side of the field was average at best in college.
At the NFL level, he will need to add a little more strength and get coached up on blocking technique even further to be at least an average impediment to press corners and occasional outside linebackers.
Isabella is one of the true X-factors of the 2019 draft. His skill set, background, post-UMass performances at the Senior Bowl, combine and Pro Day; it all spells intrigue for NFL general managers. Isabella figures to be a nice piece for a team that needs a compliment on the other side of an established, outside-the-numbers receiver.
Some mock drafts are very high on Isabella. Just ask Pro Football Focus, who not only believe he is worthy of a first round selection given the right team, he is also listed as their No. 30 ranked prospect (and fourth highest overall wide receiver).Many mocks see him as a third or fourth round selection, given the greater need for certain positions that are stacked this year, such as defensive end.
I firmly believe Isabella is a second round guy, but see him going early-to-mid third round due to the position itself. Either way, Isabella is a prospect all 32 teams need to be targeting no later than Day Two.