No wide receiver in college football amassed more receiving yards or touchdowns in 2022 than Nathaniel “Tank” Dell of the Houston Cougars. Now, he looks to replicate that same collegiate success at the NFL level. With the 69th pick of the third round in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans selected Dell to bolster their receiver depth.
Dell was the second AAC player selected in the 2023 draft behind SMU wide receiver Rashee Rice. He was the ninth receiver off the board and the seventh Cougar to be taken in the past three seasons. At pick No. 69, Dell is the highest Houston receiver to be drafted since Donnie Avery went 33rd overall in 2008.
Dell was one of the most flashy playmakers in college football over the last several seasons, defined by his quick releases and ability to gain incredible separation. The electrifying wideout plays much bigger than his 5’8”, 165 pound frame suggests, and he presents a dangerous arsenal of speed and agility — demonstrating the ability to change directions on a dime.
He initiated his college career at the FCS level with Alabama A&M and wound up at Houston for the 2020 season. Dell led the Cougars in receiving yards in his first year with the program and suddenly escalated into bona fide stardom one year later. In 2021, he attained First Team All-AAC status with 90 receptions, 1,329 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns. And even after he became the focal point of film sessions for opposing defenses, he still managed to top those numbers in 2022 in another First Team All-AAC season, complemented with All-American honors by several selectors.
In his final go-around with Houston, Dell bested all FBS receivers with 1,398 receiving yards and also was unrivaled on the national leaderboard with 17 receiving touchdowns. His final collegiate reception transpired in the most fitting manner possible — a game-winning touchdown to defeat Louisiana in the Independence Bowl. With 109 receptions in a dominant senior campaign, Dell was one reception away from tying Purdue’s Charlie Jones for the FBS leader.
He posted seven games featuring 150 or more yards in his final two years at Houston, and both seasons, his magnum opus occurred against SMU. In 2021, he helped knock off a ranked Mustangs squad with 165 yards and a hat trick of touchdowns. Then last November, he corralled 13 receptions for a career-best 180 yards and two touchdowns at SMU in the highest scoring non-overtime game in FBS history.
Dell also handled punt return duties in his senior season, taking over for the departed All-American Marcus Jones, who shined with the New England Patriots last fall. As a return specialist, Dell averaged 17 yards per runback and scored his first special teams touchdown on senior night versus Tulsa.
At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Dell clocked in at 4.49 seconds for the 40-yard dash, demonstrating his eye-popping acceleration with a 1.49-second 10-yard split. He also earned an invite to the Senior Bowl where he impressed in practices by displaying a strong tendency to shake off some of the top cornerback prospects with his route running. His small relative size at the position and limited catch radius were concerns among scouts, but his explosiveness, elite ability to separate from defenders, and footwork certainly make up for those shortcomings.
Dell does not have to travel far from his collegiate stomping grounds when launching his NFL career with the Houston Texans. He joins a rebuilding franchise which selected quarterback C.J. Stroud second overall on Thursday night. The Texans’ current receiving corps is a mix of veteran acquisitions and young prospects, including Robert Woods, Nico Collins, Noah Brown, John Metchie III, and Amari Rodgers.
He is the first-ever Houston Cougar drafted by the Houston Texans.