One of my favorite edges in fantasy football is drafting second-year breakouts at wide receiver. Wide receivers frequently leap superstardom in their second season. Years ago, we even made a YouTube video discussing the phenomenon.

The production signs of potential stardom are often evident in Year 1 and thus present us with favorable buying opportunities. But, over the years, the edge has slowly reduced as fantasy football drafters become sharper.

Fortunately, a complicated Houston Texans depth chart has led to an incredible value being discounted heading into his second season. In this recent Apex draft, he fell to a mind-numbing WR34/66th overall price tag.

Prospect Profile

I don’t think many realize how good Nathaniel “Tank” Dell was as a college player. It’s complicated by the fact that he was a 24-year-old rookie and didn’t have a clean path to the NFL.

However, as a sophomore at Houston, he amassed 90 receptions for 1,329 yards and 12 touchdowns in 14 games. That was good for 35% of his team’s receiving yards and 38% of their touchdowns while hitting 2.91 yards per team attempt.

In his junior season, he followed that up with 109 catches for 1,398 yards and 17 touchdowns in just 13 games. That upped his dominator rating to an eye-popping 38%.

While his age wasn’t ideal, Dell was dominant at Houston. He was selected at the beginning of the third round in the 2023 NFL Draft. At just 165 lbs., there were almost surely some size concerns from NFL teams. But those appear less significant in today’s NFL.

Rookie Season

I wrote this article because I don’t think drafters recognize quite how dominant Dell’s rookie year was. His rookie year stats are listed below.

GGSTgtRecYdsTDY/GCtch%Y/Tgt
1187547709764.562.70%9.5

In 11 games as an NFL rookie, Dell averaged 64.5 receiving yards per game on 9.5 yards per target.

Below is a list from Pro Football Reference of all the rookie wide receivers since 2011 to have at least 50 receiving yards per game while averaging at least 8 yards per target.

PlayerPPR/GY/GYPTYearAgePPRTgtRecYdsTD
Odell Beckham Jr.24.58108.81020142229513091130512
Ja'Marr Chase17.9285.611.4202121304.612881145513
Puka Nacua17.5687.49.3202322298.516010514866
Justin Jefferson17.1487.511.2202021274.21258814007
Michael Thomas17.0575.89.4201623255.71219211379
Mike Evans16.3470.18.6201421245.112268105112
Julio Jones15.573.810.1201122201.595549598
Tank Dell1564.59.520232416575477097
Keenan Allen14.6469.710201321219.61057110468
A.J. Green14.5370.59.22011232181156510577
JuJu Smith-Schuster14.1265.511.6201721197.779589177
Brandin Cooks13.93558201421139.369535503
Terry McLaurin13.7165.69.9201924191.993589197
CeeDee Lamb13.6158.48.4202021217.7111749355
A.J. Brown13.5765.712.5201922217.1845210518
Chase Claypool13.4354.68202022214.9109628739
Amari Cooper13.2966.98.2201521212.71307210706
Rashee Rice13.2858.69.2202323212.5102799387
Chris Olave13.2169.58.8202222198.21197210424
Jordan Addison13.0253.68.4202321221.31087091110
Martavis Bryant13.0154.911.4201423130.148265498
Calvin Ridley12.9351.38.9201824206.8926482110
Jordan Matthews12.6454.58.5201422202.2103678728
Deebo Samuel12.6153.59.9201923189.181578023
T.Y. Hilton12.4757.49.620122318790508617
Willie Snead12.2365.69.7201523183.4101699843
Tee Higgins12.1656.88.4202021194.6108679086
Darius Slayton12.1452.98.820192217084487408
Cooper Kupp11.7957.99.2201724176.994628695
D.K. Metcalf11.6956.39201922187.1100589007
Stefon Diggs11.4855.48.6201522149.384527204
Torrey Smith11.2552.68.920112218095508417
DeVonta Smith10.9253.98.8202123185.6104649165
Josh Gordon9.9150.38.4201221158.596508055
DeAndre Hopkins8.8950.18.8201321142.291528022

Sorted by PPR Points per game, Dell finished behind only Odell Beckham Jr., Ja’Marr Chase, Puka Nacua, Michael Thomas, and Julio Jones. If there’s ever a list that you want a player to be on, it’s this one.

The crazy part is Dell barely played in the game in which he fractured his fibula. He didn’t touch the ball and only played nine offensive snaps. If that game is removed from the sample, Dell jumps to an average of 16.5 PPR points per game.

Obviously, these need to be kept in the sample but it is also worth noting that Dell only played 48% of the snaps in Week 1 and 36% of the snaps in Week 5. In Week 1, he was still earning his spot as a third-round rookie. In Week 5, he played limited snaps due to suffering a concussion.

How dominant Dell was as a rookie cannot be understated. ESPN’s Analytics agree, ranking Dell behind just Keenan Allen, CeeDee Lamb, Kalif Raymond, Tyreek Hill, Garrett Wilson, DeAndre Hopkins, and A.J. Brown in their “Open” score. He ranked as the 10th-best wide receiver overall.

Comparable Players

The RotoViz Screener allows you to choose specific statistics and the system to find comparable players. I entered Dell into the Similarity Search with the following stats, these are his comparable players. Note the screener automatically removed his lightly played injury game.

PLAYERYEARRECTGTreYDreTDreFPOEPAYPTPPR
Tank Dell20234.77.570.90.70.539.516.5
Julio Jones20114.57.979.90.70.4810.117
Mike Evans20144.58.270.10.80.378.516.3
Keenan Allen20134.76.970.20.50.4310.115
Michael Thomas20166.18.175.80.60.449.417.3
A.J. Green20114.37.770.50.50.139.214.5
Marques Colston20065.48.879.80.60.27917.1
Michael Clayton200457.674.60.40.349.815.3
Mike Williams20104.18.160.20.70.057.514.2
Ja'Marr Chase20214.97.789.30.80.7711.618.9
JuJu Smith-Schuster20174.56.170.50.50.7511.614.7
Terry McLaurin20194.16.665.60.50.379.913.7
Kelvin Benjamin20144.69.1630.6-0.08714.2
Amari Cooper20154.58.167.60.40.18.313.5
Justin Jefferson20205.57.887.50.40.511.217.1
Jordan Addison20234.16.353.40.60.318.512.8
Calvin Ridley201845.851.30.60.68.913
Chase Claypool20203.96.853.70.60.127.913.5
Brandon Aiyuk202058.162.30.4-0.037.715.4
Rashee Rice20234.96.458.60.40.329.113.4

Obviously, the screener doesn’t know about Dell’s increased target competition, but it has listed him with a group of rookie superstars. Here is how some of these players performed in Year 2.

2024 Season

Much of my fantasy football philosophy is based on talent. Above all, talent wins out. If you’re a superstar player, you’re likely going to overcome obstacles to show your talent.

At this point in the fantasy offseason, Dell is being selected behind teammates Nico Collins and Stefon Diggs. Both enjoy the same exciting offense and Collins also dominated in the offense last year. Like the 2018 Rams, I think this offense can potentially support three Top-18 wide receivers on a per-game basis. I also think that despite insane rookie production, Dell is being undervalued the most. I am not fully convinced that he is the worst of the three receivers – he may even be the best.

Jared Smola of Draft Sharks noted Nico Collins and Tank Dell played 50+% of snaps together in seven games last season. Below is their production in those games:

Nico CollinsTank Dell
Targets5259
Catches3736
Receiving Yards601568
Receiving TDs56

On the Bills last year, Diggs earned 160 targets and averaged 16.1 PPR fantasy points per game – fewer than Dell if you exclude his season-ending injury game. Diggs is also entering his age-31 season after decreased efficiency, which is an obvious red flag.

I don’t even want to write negatively about Diggs because I want exposure to all three wide receivers – this offense has the potential to be among the league’s best this season. While I want any part of this WR room that I can gain access to, it’s amazing how a player of Dell’s caliber is the third wide receiver drafted on his team. If Dell’s rookie year production is any indication, he is a superstar in the making. He is the cheapest and even perhaps best way to get a piece of this exciting passing game.