By Alex Kurpeski
As a Massachusetts native, I’ve got an affinity for athletes who either come from my state or played college for a school in my state. While we’ve got a number of prestigious universities in this segment of the country, it’s rare that these schools produce prestigious athletes. Knowing this information about me, you probably won’t be surprised that I’m a huge Andy Isabella stan.
ANDY ISABELLA IS A BALLER. 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/R9vERtBBY0
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) August 16, 2019
Isabella, a Biletnikoff finalist who played his college ball at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (the closest thing to an alma mater I can relate to as a University of Massachusetts Boston alum), was a second-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2019 NFL Draft. Though he’s been buried on Arizona’s depth chart since being drafted, Isabella has a huge chance to break out this week against the Rams for a variety of reasons.
ANDY ISABELLA SIGHTING⚡️⚡️⚡️
— PFF (@PFF) September 20, 2020
Here’s a funny story. A couple of months after we launched 3CoSports I messaged Andy on Instagram asking him if he would be offended by being mocked to the Patriots in our final NFL Mock Draft that year. He responded “No”. We were excited to hear anything from him at all. So I requested to interview him before the Draft. We were ghosted by Mr. Isabella, but Tytus Howard of the Texans did accept our interview request. Unfortunately, Mr. Howard felt like he was too big for us once he was selected in the first round of the draft, and we never heard from him again. I’d like to think we helped raise his draft stock by mocking him in the first round of all of our mocks that year. Damn you, Tytus Howard!
Andy Isabella is gonna be a favorite… For a long time. pic.twitter.com/mdF81VQC1p
— Yup (@SCoxFB) April 27, 2019
At 5’9, 188 lbs, Isabella has the ideal size teams look for in a slot receiver. With 4.3 speed and unbelievably shifty footwork, creating separation has never been hard for the former UMass star. Per PlayerProfiler, Isabella’s college dominator and target percentage were in the top 3% of receiver prospects, while his 40 yard dash time was in the 99th percentile.
To make a long story short, Isabella was a baller when he saw heavy volume at UMass, which leads me to believe that the same could be true during his audition as Arizona’s primary slot receiver with living legend Larry Fitzgerald sidelined due to Covid-19. Despite his smaller stature, Isabella is a very physical route-runner who has demonstrated great body control on his catchable deep targets, rarely allowing his defender to get anywhere near the ball.
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) January 22, 2019
We’ve seen Isabella’s big-play ability used before for this offense, as he’s scored a touchdown on 12% of his career catches while averaging over 14 YPC. Kliff Kingsbury hasn’t been shy to dial-up Jet Touches and Go routes for Isabella when’s on the field, either.
Murray hooks up with Andy Isabella for 88-yard TD to cut the Niner lead to 28-25 with five minutes to go
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 1, 2019
But just why do I love Isabella’s matchup with the Rams so much? Well for starters, we can expect DeAndre Hopkins to be blanketed by Jalen Ramsay all day long. As we saw with D.K Metcalf, even the most talented receivers in the league can be locked up by the brash Ramsay. That leaves Isabella and Christian Kirk as the next men up. Given Kirk’s numbers this season, I expect the Rams to pay extra attention to him this week, leaving Isabella in some one-on-one situations.
— Casey Baker (@CaseyBake16) November 17, 2018
I see Kyler Murray turning to Isabella early and often this week, both as a check-down and as a deep threat. I can smell the breakout coming already. Pounce on Isabella while you still can.