2023 Senior Bowl

Houston’s Nathaniel Dell makes big impression on Day 1 of 2023 Senior Bowl practices

The first day of 2023 Senior Bowl practices for the American team, led by Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, was a slower pace and less intense version of the National Team’s session Tuesday. Still, there were a few notable takeaways from the two hours of on-field work.

I focused all of my attention on the wide receivers. It’s a position the Bears will look to upgrade this offseason in both free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft. There’s no doubt Getsy noticed a few standout performers on Tuesday.

The best receiver of the day was Houston’s Nathaniel Dell. He’s undersized at 5083 and 163 pounds, but there wasn’t a defensive back on the field who could cover him. His quick twitch and elite stop-and-start ability left defenders chasing ghosts. Dell’s destined to play in the slot in the NFL, and he’d be a marked upgrade over Velus Jones Jr., Chicago’s third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Bears know firsthand that a light receiver doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t hang in the NFL. Darnell Mooney weight 176 pounds at the 2020 NFL Combine, and he’s proven that he can be a 1,000-yard pass-catcher because of his quickness and route-running. Dell profiles the same way, although he doesn’t have outside receiver traits.

Dell will fly up 2023 NFL Draft rankings over the next few days. At this point, he looks every bit like a Day 2 pick.

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Ole Miss’ Jonathan Mingo won the ‘look the part’ award among the 2023 Senior Bowl wide receivers. At 6013 and 226 pounds, he has the kind of frame that conjures visions of A.J. Brown. Mingo used that size to his advantage Tuesday; he made several contested catches and was a viable target for his quarterbacks even when it looked like the coverage was strong.

Mingo didn’t wow with his route-running or ability to separate, but players with his physical make-up don’t have to be overly twitchy. He flashed solid and reliable hands and will make a nice draft-day target if the Chicago Bears want to add more size to the wide receiver room.

Princeton’s Andrei Iosivas may have the most upside among the wide receivers on the American Team. He’s extremely raw, and his route-running left much to be desired Tuesday. But his fluid athleticism and body control make him a fantastic developmental prospect who could emerge in a few seasons as a legitimate weapon in the passing game. He has an explosive skill set that can’t be taught; his route-running can be.

Iowa State’s Xavier Hutchinson looked more explosive than I expected him to be on Tuesday. He’s a smooth route-runner, and at 6017 and 207 pounds, he reminded me of a poor man’s Robert Woods. I don’t think he’ll be as impactful as Woods has been in the league, but it was hard not to like what Hutchinson was doing in his one-on-one reps.

Hutchinson won’t stand out in any one area of his game, but it won’t surprise me if he’s one of the more productive receivers in the 2023 Senior Bowl game at the end of the week.

The most highly touted wide receiver on the American Team is SMU’s Rashee Rice, but he was also one of the more disappointing players for me on Tuesday. His routes were sluggish, and he didn’t look nearly as explosive as he’s been billed. Yes, he made a few of his trademark contested catches, but I am concerned about his lack of juice.

Rice won’t be the first wide receiver to start slow at the Senior Bowl only to finish as one of the week’s big winners. Christian Watson got better with each day during the 2022 Senior Bowl and ended up being an early second-round pick in the NFL Draft. Rice’s draft stock won’t plummet if he has a lackluster week, but he needs to get better than he was Tuesday.

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