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2019 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Andy Isabella, UMass

2019 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Andy Isabella, UMass
Davis Mattek February 19, 2019 9:36AM EST

Andy Isabella NFL Draft Profile

If I would have been told that I would have been jumping to write the prospect profile for a 5-10, 190 lb slot wide receiver four years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. When analytics was really hitting the fantasy football community, one of the first things we learned was that larger-bodied wide receivers generally tended to have the best levels of success in the NFL. There would always be counterpoints like Wes Welker, Marvin Harrison or Antonio Brown but generally speaking, it was the AJ Green, Julio Jones, Mike Evans style of players who projected the best in the NFL. Andy Isabella and his draft stock is a sign that this is changing.

That does not so much hold true today in the NFL, for several reasons. First, the distribution of targets has become more spread out. There are less wide receivers than ever seeing more than 25% of their teams’ total targets. In the 2018 NFL season, only 11 players saw more than a 25% target share in their respective offenses despite teams throwing the ball more than ever. So what is the lesson to learn from that? Second and third wide receivers have not only more usefulness in real football (because there are more passes to go around and more players need to be good at catching them) but need more attention paid to them in fantasy football as well.

Meet Andy Isabella, one of my favorite wide receiver prospects in this draft. Isabella played at a small school, the University of Massachusetts who is actually an Independent school for football. He was only a 2-star recruit for UMass and barely played as a freshman but had a massive leap in playing time and production as a sophomore, where he accounted for 26% of Umass’s passing offense in 2016.

2017 is where Isabella’s star really started to shine. He accounted for 30% of the Minutemen’s total passing offense in 2017 and had 11 total touchdowns including a rushing touchdown. In his senior season, Isabella went even further, finishing 2nd in all of the NCAA in receptions with 102, while accruing 1,698 yards with 14 touchdowns. In his “official” highlights video, you can see all of the traits that allowed him to be so productive. Andy Isabella has an almost preternatural ability to find the seam against a zone defense, steady hands and what looks to be some of the best short-area agility and acceleration I’ve ever seen on a football field.

There are many ways to evaluate NFL draft prospects. Some focus heavily on #GrindingTheTape, others tend to focus on tangible outputs such as production and NFL combine numbers. I certainly do like to watch the film of guys whose numbers pop, particularly at small schools but generally speaking, production trumps all. There will always be an argument about players who produce at smaller schools against weaker competition but Isabella answered at least some of those concerns by turning in dominant performances against Georgia (15-219-2), South Florida (13-191-1) and Mississippi State (7-158-1).  The argument for small school wide receivers is that they are/were clearly better than the lower level of competition and the argument against is that it is hard to gauge a true level of skill if they were playing against D3-quality athletes.

A large part of where Isabella lands in the NFL draft and in our dynasty rankings here on RotoExperts is going to come down to how he produces at the combine. There are claims that he might be able to run a 40-yard dash time right about 4.3 which would put in a fairly hallowed company, even at his smaller size. Throughout this draft class evaluation, I have considered him an arbitrage value to Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown, the stud Oklahoma wide receiver. Both are definitively undersized, highly productive and will need to post scorching combine times to justify their draft slot. As of right now, I consider Isabella one of my three or four favorite wide receivers in the class because it is so easy to see his game transferring to the NFL. When he runs routes or evades a tackler in the open field, it is easy to see how a good NFL coach would ask him to play.

Image Courtesy Of The Daily Collegian 

Photo by Caroline O’Connor

2019 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Andy Isabella, UMass 1

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