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Contact the Pine Needle Office:

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NFL Draft Talk Volume IV

February 27, 2019

As the NFL draft draws closer and closer here are some questions that are circulating that pertain to prospects and their draft stock as well as their potential and projected impacts at the next level.

Will Andy Isabella be the Cinderella of this year’s draft?

     In the 2017 NFL draft, there were three wide receivers taken in the first round, all of which were top 10 picks and who combined for less than 50 catches and 500 yards on the season. Yet the most productive receivers from that entire draft class came from players selected after day one of the draft. The Pittsburgh Steeler’s JuJu Smith-Shuster and the Los Angeles Rams’ Cooper Kupp were sensational in their rookie seasons.

     Smith-Shuster, who was taken with the 62nd overall pick in the second round, has accumulated 169 receptions, 2,343 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first two years in the league. Kupp, who was taken just seven picks later with the 69th overall pick in the third round, was on pace for 1,000 plus yard and catch season before a torn ACL ended his 2018 campaign as he has become a key cog in the offensive juggernaut that the Rams have become, excluding their pitiful Superbowl performance.

     The point is that there are gems to be had in the later rounds of the draft and just because a receiver is taken in the top 10, doesn’t mean he’ll pan out in year one or at all. This year’s receiver class is not very top heavy with only four or five guys that are garnering first-round consideration, but none are currently projected to go in the top 10.

However, there is an abundance of pass catchers that teams are looking to snag in the mid to late round of the draft that could make an impact for teams right from the jump and even provide a team with the same boost that Kupp Smith-Shuster has given their teams.

     A potential candidate for the mid to late round Cinderella story in this year’s draft could very well be UMass product, Andy Isabella. The Minutemen wide receiver, like Kupp, absolutely lit it up in college posting back to back 1,000 plus yard seasons in his junior and senior campaigns.

     His 102 receptions in his final season were second most in the FBS, his 13 touchdowns were tied for fifth most and his 1,698 receiving yards was the most in the country. Viewed as a bit of an undersized prospect, Isabella can flat out burn as well as run every route on any given tree.

     His ability to flawlessly get in and out of his breaks, find the soft spots in zone coverage, highpoint the ball over defenders despite his smaller stature and his acceleration that translates to a lot of yards after the catch make him one of the most intriguing prospective talents in this class.

     Despite the majority of his competition coming from other independent schools, he has played at his best when facing off against top-level teams. In the team’s 66-27 blowout defeat at the hands of the Georgia Bulldogs, Kirby Smart and his staff had no answers for Isabella on that day.

     He went totally ballistic on a Georgia secondary filled to the brim with five-star recruits, some of which have entered this very same draft. The couldn’t stick with him, cover him or keep up with him as he hauled in 15 catches for 219 yards and two touchdowns in the team’s losing effort.

     While that was probably the first and only time that many of the country was able to witness him playing ball, best believe that league executives and scouts have had their eye on the Mayfield, OH native for quite some time and he even had an impressive showing at the Reese’s Senior Bowl in January.

     Now I’m not sure if a pair of cleats made of glass will hold up on the gridiron, but there is a possibility that come September, Andy Isabella could be the bell of the ball on some lucky team’s offense.

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