The drama of Antonio Brown and the Oakland Raiders took a good chunk of the early off-season, but it’s finally over. Even before Amari Cooper was traded to the Dallas Cowboys last year and in spite of landing Brown, Oakland had a need at wide receiver. Derek Carr will need more weapons in 2019 and with four picks (at the moment) in the first two rounds, the Raiders will have plenty of opportunities to select a young receiver in the draft. Oakland should consider taking Andy Isabella.
While his size (5-foot-9, 188 pounds) prevents him from being a consistent outside threat, Isabella’s athleticism makes him a lethal weapon in the slot.
Some players don’t look fast on film, but test really well at the combine while others flunk the underwear Olympics, but leave opponents in their dust on the tape. Fortunately for Isabella, he looked fast on film and scored brilliantly at the combine.
With the exception of the bench press, which really doesn’t matter for a slot receiver, Isabella hit every test out of the park. He ran an official 4.31 (though some said 4.27) 40-yard dash, tying Ohio State’s Parris Campbell for the fastest time for a receiver in this year’s class. He also ran excellent cone (6.95) and shuttle (4.15) drills and put up an impressive vertical (36.5 inches) for someone his size.
The Eye in the Sky Don’t Lie
He’s not just a workout warrior though. Isabella is a dominant player and even though UMASS isn’t in the SEC, and despite not playing powerhouses like Michigan or Ohio State regularly, he put up insane numbers in college. In his senior year alone, Isabella caught 102 passes for 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns.
In his last game as a member of the Minutemen, the UMASS offense was mostly helpless and quarterback Ross Comis looked wildly uncomfortable the whole game. UMASS couldn’t protect their quarterback or get the run game going, but Isabella still put up 15 catches for 219 yards and two touchdowns, including two catches over projected first-round pick, Deandre Baker.
Isabella isn’t going to be a very formidable blocker down the field, but that doesn’t mean he’s a slouch. He puts everything he has into finding his man and blocking him to the best of his ability in spite of his lack of ideal height.
Isabella has good hands, elite quickness and is an exceptional route runner. His footwork is on another level and the way he can get himself open is quite fun to watch. As a complementary piece, he could become a favorite target of Derek Carr moving forward.
Admittedly, there’s nothing that Andy Isabella can do about his size. Even if he spent the next six months in the gym, he’d still be 5-foot-9, and that will limit him as a receiver. Even in an era where defenders can’t touch receivers and it seems like every other hit is a personal foul penalty, Isabella is never going to be a number one receiver.
In some ways, Isabella is the anti-D.K. Metcalf. He’s a sound route runner, got reliable hands and had exceptional college production, but his size might hold him back in the NFL. He’s not great at winning 50/50 balls, and while he can dance around defenders, he’s not going to run anyone over.
Not to mention, he hasn’t faced pro-caliber competition before. He put up huge numbers in college, but even the best collegiate defenses don’t compare to the pros. If Andy Isabella ended up being covered one-on-one by someone like Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, he could struggle mightly.
As good as Isabella is, he’s only going to succeed in an offense where there’s a more physically dominant target on the outside. He’s like a faster Wes Welker, and he’ll need more physical weapons to really dominate. I’d like to see the Raiders use one of their first-round picks on N’Keal Harry, and then come back for Isabella in the second or third round to really round out the offense, especially now that they have Antonio Brown.
If the name Andy Isabella sounds familiar and you don’t watch UMASS football or the combine, it might be because he was on Jon Gruden’s North squad at the Senior Bowl. Isabella had, far and away, the best performance of any receiver in the game, catching seven passes for 74 yards and a score.
Gruden went out of his way to say he liked Isabella in the week leading up to the Senior Bowl, and his playcalling in the collegiate scrimmage proved that. There’s no question the Raiders need a wide receiver and the people in charge of draft selections are well aware of who he is and what he’s capable of.
But honestly, the biggest reason the Raiders need to draft this guy? Essentially because if they don’t, the New England Patriots absolutely will, and the last thing the NFL needs is for one of Tom Brady‘s slot receivers to have 4.27 speed.