We’ll hear plenty about the big name prospects leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft over the next three months, but the 2019 Senior Bowl offers some players to climb into our radar. Given the lack of underclassmen at the Senior Bowl, the game provides an opportunity for smaller school seniors to shine. Today, we thought we’d take a look at a standout receiver from Massachusetts.
Andy Isabella, WR, Massachusetts
Height: 5’8, Weight: 186 lbs
2018: 102 rec, 1,698 yards, 13 TD (2nd Team AP All American)
2017: 65 rec, 1,020 yards, 10 TD
Every year when draft season rolls around there’s usually a small school FBS product that generates some noise, but rarely from the independent University of Massachusetts— so, why has Minutemen wide receiver, Andy Isabella became a favorite of draft twitter? Let me explain.
Isabella’s best trait is his blazing speed, but saying he’s fast almost doesn’t do Isabella justice— he’s a true burner. Isabella made waves at the Senior Bowl media day when he claimed to run a 4.26 hand timed 40-yard dash. Insert fire emoji. Isabella uses his speed to take the top off defenses and stretch the field underneath on crossing routes. Isabella is quickly rising to the top ranks when it comes to must watch combine performances. Isabella is inline to wow scouts with his 40-yard dash. Isabella said at Senior Bowl media day that he’s hoping to break the 4.3 mark.
When watching Isabella, one thing that’s worth mentioning is burst and acceleration. His elite acceleration and burst is what makes Isabella special and it can sometimes be overshadowed because people just classify acceleration under his speed trait. It’s worth mentioning that Isabella doesn’t only have straight line speed, but can pop off the line with devastating burst. When coming in and out of routes Isabella uses his acceleration to create space. This helps separate Isabella against bigger and more physical corners.
Isabella is a crafty route runner that uses his aforementioned skills to create separation with every step. His footwork off the line can be really choppy and confuse corners. It’s also pretty apparent Isabella has a high football IQ. He seems to understand where to find open spaces in coverage fairly consistently.
When seeing Isabella’s 3,519 yards and 30 touchdowns in three seasons it’s hard to not do a double take. When looking at his production, it’s easy to think it’s only that wild because he came from a small school, but after a deeper dive his numbers are still very impressive. Isabella wasn’t a hidden secret for the Minutemen last season and he still caught 102 passes for 13 touchdowns. Isabella was the gem of UMass for the last three years, and probably had his name circled by every defensive coordinator the Minutemen faced and he was still productive. Isabella had a game where he racked up 303 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also torched Georgia for 15 catches, 219 yards and two touchdowns— yes The Georgia Bulldogs from the SEC. In that game he lined up opposite of Deandre Baker, who is regarded as a top corner in the 2019 class by many and still dominated. The Senior Bowl is a big week for Isabella to prove he can translate his production versus some legit competition. Isabella also mentioned he’s working with Hall of Fame wideout Randy Moss in preparation for the draft.
Isabella will get consistently compared to players like Julian Edelman, but he’s more of a speed demon like Tyreek Hill — who would be Isabella’s peak. Another player that is somewhat reminiscent of Isabella is Miami’s Jakeem Grant— he’s that fast that these comparisons are 100% worthy. Isabella told reporters at Senior Bowl media day that Hill is his favorite receiver to watch in the NFL. When watching Isabella play it’s hard to not think of former UMass star Victor Cruz. Isabella said he hopes to speak with Cruz before the draft, but hasn’t yet.
Isabella size is an obvious issue. He measured smaller than listed at UMass, which is a problem and he his hand size didn’t impress. The size could drive teams away, dropping Isabella’s stock. Another thing Isabella could improve on is at time times he can get a little jumpy out of his breaks which almost turns into a skip. Isabella can also get a little too crafty with his releases at times, instead of just using his elite speed to run by people, he gets churned up with too many moves. Outside of size, these are all issues that could be cleaned up with coaching.
If Isabella can manufacture this type of production at the FBSS level, just imagine what he could do with Kyle Shanahan scheming him open? Okay, stop drooling. Shanahan doesn’t have a weapon with Isabella’s skill set on this roster. We know the 49ers need a big bodied red zone target, but the NFL is trending in the direction of dynamic speedy targets. Think of teams like the Rams, who have Robert Woods, Brandin Cook and Cooper Kupp. Marquise Goodwin is very fast as well, but primarily plays on the outside while Isabella could slide underneath with Dante Pettis as the possession receiver. Isabella would provide Shanahan and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo with some serious firepower and a dose creativity in the offense.