Saturday, January 16, 2021

What does Hopkins trade mean for Andy Isabella?

When the Cardinals select Andy Isabella in the second round of the 2019 draft there were a lot of people who doubted the pick. Isabella wasn’t the most highly touted of receivers, and wasn’t top of many team boards at that point in the draft, but the Cardinals seemed totally sold.

After a disappointing season in 2019 Isabella now finds himself behind another receiver in DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins is the clear number one now, with Fitzgerald and Kirk taking spots two and three. With Kenyan Drake on the field most downs in the backfield that leaves Isabella as the fourth wide receiver in 10 personnel, and on the bench as depth in everything else.

As bad as that sounds for Isabella, coach had positive words for him after not drafting a WR in 2020.

Was Andy Isabella too much of a reach?

UMass receiver Andy Isabella shone at the combine based on one thing…his 40. Running a 4.31, he blew everyone away. He had impressive college numbers with an NCAA leading 1,698 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns in 2018 to back up his production.

But Isabella’s a little guy at just 5′-9″ and 188 pounds. He may have played outside in college, but he’s only ever gonna be a slot in the NFL. Taking him with the 62nd overall pick was a reach. He was the 8th receiver taken in the class, two spots ahead of DK Metcalf who would go on to shine in the playoffs.

Walter Football had him as the 12th best receiver entering the 2019 draft, and while 62nd was a reach, it’s an ok kind of reach if you have a good football team. But the Cards had, and still have, a lot of needs and making a reach on a slot receiver in the second round seems a bit punchy.

Andy Isabella had a rough rookie campaign
Andy Isabella had a rough rookie campaign

Having struggled with route running, body-catching too many balls, and some drops, Isabella had a lot to prove in his rookie campaign, especially with a rookie QB as well. A chance to build rapport with the new golden arm of the franchise, and set himself up to be his favorite underneath guy for years to come.

Only It didn’t happen like that for Andy Isabella. In preseason Isabella saw the field for a total of 65 snaps. Of those 15 were running plays. In the 50 pass plays, he was targeted 11 times with 3 receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown. In each game, his production went down with his first game against Oakland being the pinnacle with 1 catch for 59 and a touchdown.

As bad, and baffling, as his preseason was, he would see just 157 offensive snaps in the regular season, and just 13 targets. 104 of those snaps came in the second half of the season along with 11 of his 13 targets. So there were some signs of an increase in usage but the change was minimal.

Andy Isabella had an 88-yard Touchdown against the Niners in week 8
Andy Isabella had an 88-yard Touchdown against the Niners in week 8

Andy Isabella would finish his rookie season with 9 catches for 189 yards and 1 touchdown.

With Hakeem Buttler and KeeSean Johnson also competing for snaps things can only get harder in 2020. With Johnson and even Trent Sherfield seeing more offensive snaps in 2019, something dramatic has to change in 2020 for Isabella to prove his value as the 62nd pick on the 2019 draft.

In the modern NFL speed kills, and in Kliff kingsbury’s Air Raid offence, Andy Isabella should be able to shine. In his breakout game against the 49ers he showed just what he can do. If he can overcome his route-running issues and continue improving his catch consistency he should still be able to build a career in Arizona.

But he will have limited chances, and Andy Isabella must be ready when the ball is coming his way.

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