Rookie Super Sleepers: Dylan Cantrell – by Josh Deisinger

A player who spends 5 years in a college system before entering the NFL draft doesn’t usually garner a lot of interest up front from scouts. So why should Dylan Cantrell be your targeted stash if no one else seems to be talking about him…

Firstly, no one at Texas Tech presumed him to be there for 5 years as he was the 36th nationally ranked wide receiver prospect out of High School in 2013. Secondly, he joined the Red Raiders fresh off a 1,400 yard and 15 Touchdown high school season in Whitehouse, Texas (same school Pat Mahomes graduated from). He chose TTU over other prominent schools such as Arkansas, West Virginia, and Ole Miss.

In his freshman year, he did see the field and caught 9 passes for 70 yards, which is nothing to shake a stick at when you consider he was playing behind established starters Eric Ward, Jordan Davis, Bradley Marquez, Jakeem Grant, and Reginald Davis.

The 2014 version of Cantrell was a lot more promising as the now sophomore doubled his reception total (20) and produced over 300 yards (312) and his first two collegiate Touchdowns. The numbers don’t always tell the story in detail tough and in Cantrell’s case this was true again. In his first start against then #24 Ranked Oklahoma State, he made only 2 catches, but one of which landed him a No. 2 spot on the Sports Center Top 10. This wasn’t the only time Cantrell was able to get his face on National Television, as he did it again versus West Virginia later in the season.

After a back injury saw him miss the 2015 season, Cantrell’s return saw him get to work with a QB that you might have heard of – Patrick Mahomes. With a 11.6 yard per reception rate, the big guy on the outside tallied 675 yards and 8 touchdowns and once again made highlight reel plays along the way. In the next video that I linked, by Draftbreakdown.com, you see Cantrell working against the Kansas Jayhawks. I really liked the fact that he shows good ability to block, which as a rookie in the NFL is one of the quickest ways to get regular snaps. On one play you see him pancake the Defensive Back out of bounds! In this game vs KU; he fights for position,  isn’t afraid of contact, he out muscles defenders in 50/50 situations and he works his way back to the QB when the play is broken.

Texas Tech vs. Arizona State Football
Photo Credit: Brad Tollefson/A-J Media

In 2017, Cantrell entered his senior season and saw much of the same, solid production (71/816/7) which again is nothing to scoff at when you think about the fact that he played in an air raid system in college that spreads the ball around consistently and hardly ever produces a target share near 20% or greater. His performance at the 2018 NFL Rookie combine is where most began to take notice.

When Dylan entered the 2018 NFL Rookie combine he wasn’t on anybody’s radar but nonetheless received an invite. He measured in at 6’ 2.7” and 226 lbs., with 9.25” hands and 76.4” wingspan. He is big, but how fast? Cantrell blew away the clock with an impressive 4.44 second 40-yard dash, a lightning quick 6.56 second three-cone, and proved he was explosive with an 11.25-foot broad jump. If that wasn’t enough, Cantrell also put up 18 repetitions in the 225-lb. bench press.

I can only imagine what some of the analysts were thinking or even saying. Who is this guy? He wasn’t talked about, he just exploded on to the scene. He finished the combine with the top overall pSPARQ score of 148.7! To put this number into perspective, the 2nd overall pick of the 2018 NFL Rookie Draft, Saquon Barkley, scored a 148.0. Think for a minute and tell me, if you honestly have ‘never’ heard someone boast of Barkley’s athletic talents, or his size. No? I didn’t think so. That’s all they talk about. They, as in every fantasy football player on every media stream possible. But for the absolute definition of ‘Sleeper’ or ‘Stash’ candidacy, this is a perfect scenario. A guy outshines Barkley, of all people, at the 2018 NFL Combine and receives nothing in the way of talk.

Selected by the Los Angeles Chargers with the 191st overall pick in round 6, some might look at this landing spot as ‘less than ideal’. I disagree. A Hall of Fame caliber Quarterback in Philip Rivers, a young and very talented offense overall and in my opinion a defense that can finish Top 5 in 2018.

What about the talent in front of him on the depth chart? Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, 2017 7th overall pick Mike Williams and Travis Benjamin. Check. If you have paid any attention to the Chargers’ offense over the past 5 years, you will remember that they tend to ‘miss time’ due to injury. The following are career games missed; Keenan Allen 27 games in 5 seasons, Tyrell Williams 0 games missed (only played in 4 games his rookie season), Mike Williams 6 games in his rookie season, and Travis Benjamin has missed 12 games in 6 seasons.

He has potential, he has opportunity in an exciting offense led by Phillip Rivers and the wide receivers ahead of him have a knack for missing time. Fun fact – Tyrell Williams is an Unrestricted Free Agent in 2019 and Travis Benjamin (the WR4 on the roster) has a cap hit of $7.5 million in 2018 and $6.5 million in 2019. It’s highly unlikely that either of these two are in Chargers uniforms next year. Also – if you didn’t know, Hunter Henry their young, talented, franchise tight end who was poised to break out in 2018 unfortunately tore his ACL. If the Los Angeles Chargers opt to not bringing in another tight end; I think they will make up for his absence with more three-wide sets which only increases Cantrell’s chances of making an impact in 2018.

All of this said, whether Dylan Cantrell gets stashed on the practice squad or if he makes the Chargers 53- you NEED to stash him at the end of your bench or your Taxi Squad before someone else does.

by Joshua Deisinger – @SconnieJosh

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(Combine Stats, Metrics and rankings from 3sigmaathlete.com, contract statistics from spotrac.com)

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