Could the help the New England Patriots need at wide receiver come from right down I-90 in Amherst, Mass.?
According to Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst, the Patriots have shown considerable interest in UMass wideout Andy Isabella, who impressed evaluators with his 4.31-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“Two teams I left out, who a number of people tell me who are really interested in him are the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers,” Pauline said on the Bleav Podcast Network, as transcribed by WEEI.com. “The Patriots make sense in so many ways. This is their type of receiver. A little bit shorter, a little bit undersized, but incredibly quick, incredibly creative, fast, a guy who can produce when the ball is in his hands running after the catch, as well as lining up as a return specialist.”
A high school track state champion who began his college career as a running back, Isabella put up incredible numbers for the Minutemen last season, leading the nation with 1,698 receiving yards (no other player reached 1,500) while ranking second in catches with 102 and tied for sixth in receiving touchdowns with 13.
Games against top competition were rare for UMass, but Isabella’s best performance came against SEC powerhouse Georgia. Isabella caught 15 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns in that game, accounting for more than half of his team’s total yardage in a 66-27 loss.
At 5-foot-9, 188 pounds, Isabella is similar in stature to several slot receivers who have had success in the Patriots’ offense, but he primarily lined up outside in college and has drawn comparisons to Tyreek Hill, Brandin Cooks and T.Y. Hilton. Part of the focus of his pre-draft training sessions with Randy Moss (yes, that Randy Moss) has been learning the intricacies of playing in the slot.
Isabella’s NFL.com draft profile lists Patriots receiver Phillip Dorsett as a player comp, praising his “elite quickness and long speed to go with solid play strength.”
“Isabella has the feet and fakes to uncover in a hallway closet, and the former high school sprint champion proved to Georgia that his ability to win deep should not be underestimated,” NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein wrote. “Isabella could become a menace on option routes with the ability to add vertical routes from the slot, but he must improve his pass-catching consistency and smoothness into his breaks in order to transition all that speed to the NFL.”
Isabella is likely to hear his name called on Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft. The Patriots currently own 12 picks, including six on the first two days and three in the third round.
New England’s current wide receiver depth chart consists of Julian Edelman, Dorsett, Bruce Ellington, Maurice Harris, Braxton Berrios, Damoun Patterson and special teamer Matthew Slater.