If it seems to you as though the SEC is full of tight end prospects set for the 2019 NFL Draft (see: Alabama's Irv Smith and Ole Miss product Dawson Knox), you’re not wrong. The Georgia Bulldogs contribute to this perception with the ascension of junior Isaac Nauta.
NAME: Isaac Nauta
POSITION: Tight End
WT: 246 lbs
Nauta was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and played 33 games over three seasons for the Bulldogs. He is coming off of his most productive season at the collegiate level but, while nothing stands out from his production as far as being a national leader in any one stat, the Georgia offense is traditionally more run heavy and that remained especially true during Nauta’s time in Athens.
Nauta was able to make his name known and put together some solid seasons for the Bulldogs despite not being a primary focus in the offense. Perhaps this makes him especially suited for the Cowboys as being a secondary option behind the run game and the receivers is what he should expect if he is selected by Dallas when the NFL Draft rolls around.
What stands out immediately when watching Nauta is his blocking ability. It doesn’t appear that bigger defenders, such as edge rushers were an issue for him. This is impressive considering the quality of rushers he faced in the SEC.
Nauta was able to handle pass rushers and sealed off the edge allowing his runners to get around the corners. As mentioned, Georgia is a run-heavy offense which means it was critical for Nauta to be able to block for his backs. His experience in the SEC will serve him well in the NFL and his blocking ability is something the Cowboys generally look for in the tight end position.
Getting to the second level wasn’t an issue for Nauta either, he was able to get to his man to give ball carriers lanes as they moved downfield. He uses his strength well when blocking lineman but could use refinement in his technique, which is something that is usually taught at the next level. Critiques of Nauta’s blocking acumen include suboptimal leverage and hand placement, which could use some work.
Isaac Nauta’s route running was very limited while playing for the Bulldogs, so that is a question mark about his game. He has shown the ability to find a spot in the zone and sit but more advanced routes will be something that Nauta will need to be coached on in the NFL. With the amount of games available to observe, Isaac Nauta showed promise on becoming a weapon as a pass catcher.
One knock on Nauta is he doesn’t have the speed to create separation from defensive backs, so he will need to work on crisp route running in order to create bigger windows for a quarterback in the NFL.
With any pass catcher, the worry is with drops. Nauta doesn’t have an issue with dropping the football as it rarely happens. He is able to snag the ball away from his body with little concern.
When the ball is dropped, it usually stems from a lack of focus or when he takes his eyes off the ball to look for defenders. Nauta is a pass catcher that you can trust to go up and get the ball at times. Due to the volume of passing opportunities for Georgia receivers, there weren’t enough instances to know whether or not he can do it on a consistent basis.
Bottom line is that Isaac Nauta should get strong consideration for the Cowboys. He can be a nasty blocker in terms of effort and tenacity. He has good balls skills that the team can use, especially when things get tight in the red zone. His NFL Combine workout should tell us more on whether he is a day two or day three prospect based on his athletic testing.
Do you think the Cowboys should take a chance on a big, tall former highly recruited target like Isaac Nauta? Share your thoughts on the TE position in Dallas with Patrick @DraftCowboys.