New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas has become a dominant offensive force in the NFL. Thomas, a second round pick by the Saints in the 2016 draft, had his third straight 1,000 yard receiving season last year. He led the league with a franchise record 125 receptions, totaling another team record 1,405 receiving yards. While Thomas dominated defenses, the rest of the New Orleans receiving corps struggled to provide any consistent threat against the opposition. Running back Alvin Kamara is one of the league's most versatile weapons, and the team signed free agent tight end Jared Cook this offseason to upgrade that spot. New Orleans does expect a big improvement from Tre'Quan Smith and Keith Kirkwood this year after promising rookie seasons, along with a return to health of veterans Ted Ginn Jr. and Cameron Meredith. Saints head coach Sean Payton has always been an offensive minded coach though, so it wouldn't surprise anyone if New Orleans spent an early draft choice on another weapon for quarterback Drew Brees. Today's draft profile has a look at a potential gamebreaker, who could give opposing defenses nightmares.
Andy Isabella, WR (Massachusetts)
Isabella starred in both track and football at Mayfield High School in Ohio. He was the Ohio state champion in the 100 and 200 meters (defeating Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward), and ran a national best 6.72 60m dash during the indoor season. Not heavily recruited due to his size, Isabella chose the University of Massachusetts, the only Division I school to offer him a football scholarship. He was a starter by his sophomore year, and caught 62 passes for 801 yards and seven touchdowns. By his junior year he was a star and a home run threat, catching 65 balls for 1,020 yards and 10 scores. Isabella was fully on the radar of NFL scouts as a senior last year. He had a standout game on a national stage against Georgia, and finished the year with 102 receptions for 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was named to the Walter Camp All-American team, and was a finalist for the Biletnikoff award given to the nation's top receiver.
Isabella capped off his collegiate career with a 7 catch, 79 yard, 1 touchdown outing in the Senior Bowl, and was named the M.V.P. for the North squad. He then grabbed national attention with a dazzling performance at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. Isabella blazed a 4.31 in the 40, tying for the fastest mark among wideouts and the 3rd best among all participants. He also ran a 6.95 in the 3-cone drill and 4.15 in the 20-yd shuttle, both fifth among receivers.
Phillip Dorsett (Patriots)
Andy Isabella is a fierce and tough competitor, able to make plays in the middle of the field despite his size. He gets a quick release off the line to beat press coverage, and is equally effective from outside or the slot. He is both quick in short areas to gain separation, and blazing fast to beat coverage deep. Isabella makes sharp route cuts and adjustments at full speed, getting to open space almost immediately for his quarterback. He is lightning in the open field. Extremely elusive to defenders with the ball in his hands, he is difficult to hit and explodes through creases to create big plays. He is a playmaker on short passes, but is also a bonafide deep threat, able to excel through the entire route tree with both speed and precision.
Isabella has small hands for a wideout, and his frame gives him a limited catch radius. His route running improved drastically during his college career, but must continue to evolve to be a success at the next level. Isabella is much more physical than his stature would suggest, but he would need to get stronger to hold up to the constant pounding at the NFL level.
Andy Isabella is projected to be drafted early on the draft's second day, possibly even sneaking into the first round. He adds value as a kick or punt returner, given his open field running skills. Isabella could be a deadly weapon for any offense. He may best be utilized as a motion receiver or in bunch formations initially, to better get him in open space. Isabella has the look of an every down weapon though, one that can be effective from anywhere in the offensive formation. He gets rapid separation on short patterns, and turns short gains into big plays with his running ability, as well as taking the top off a defense with his blazing speed. Isabella flew under the radar of major college recruiters, but may be very relevant very quickly upon his arrival to the NFL.