Dylan Cantrell, a 2013 three-star recruit, started 29 of 46 career games at Texas Tech.
Dylan Cantrell lined up primarily as a flanker or split end to the outside of the formation in the Red Raiders air raid offense. After recording 29 catches in his first two seasons at Texas Tech, a back injury would force Cantrell to redshirt the 2015 season.
He would return the following season and post 129 receptions, 1,491 yards and 15 touchdowns over his final two years in Lubbock. As a junior in 2016, he would miss two games as a result of a hand injury. He’s played for one head coach and two offensive coordinators during his college career. He earned an invitation to the Scouting Combine. He possesses good size on a bulky frame with marginal athletic ability.
Age During Rookie Season: 24 (June 29, 1994)
Measurables from Combine
Height: 6’2” 7/8
Weight: 226 lbs
Arm Length: 31-3/8″
Hand Size: 9-1/4″
Texas Tech Red Raiders Football
In an offense that doesn’t huddle often, Dylan Cantrell demonstrates solid mental processing skills as he communicates with his quarterback to determine the route pattern. He is able to get a good release against press coverage by using his strength and quick hands to fight through and beat attempts by the defender to jam him at the line of scrimmage and throw off the timing of his route. Once free, he varies his speed and displays solid acceleration throughout the stem of his route to keep defenders on their toes.
On this play from the 2017 Birmingham Bowl against South Florida, Cantrell, to the far left of the formation, utilizes his length to prevent the cornerback from jamming him at the line of scrimmage. After getting the corner off balance, Cantrell uses his strength to give a little push with his left arm in order to create separation at the top of the curl route. He drags a couple of defenders with him as he picks up an extra five yards before the fourth defender in on the play can bring him down.
Cantrell shows solid awareness as he looks for the ball quickly on blitzes and will find the hole in a zone defense to give his quarterback an easy throw. He displayed good courage over the middle of the field as he ran a high volume of dig routes through the heart of the defense.
Cantrell tracks the ball well in the air and utilizes his strength and leaping ability to box out defenders and come down with jump balls. Along the sideline, he demonstrates good awareness and body control to stay inbounds after making the catch. He possesses strong hands to hold the ball through contact before quickly turning upfield. He fights through contact and uses very good play strength to push his way forward and maximize yards after the catch.
When the ball does not come his way, Cantrell displays very good competitive toughness as he finds someone to block and will control the defender through the whistle. In the play below against Arizona State, Texas Tech lines up with trips to the right. The play is a quick out to the inside receiver with Cantrell, to the far outside, blocking downfield. Cantrell is able to latch on quickly under the defender’s shoulder pads and control him for the entirety of the play, tossing him around like a rag doll from side to side before sending the overmatched defender out of bounds.
Dylan Cantrell is a marginal athlete who lacks explosiveness off the snap, even when given a free release. He possesses poor separation quickness as he fails to create instant space at the top of his route without being physical. Adequate agility hampers his ability to run crisp routes, resulting in him rounding off the top of his route and allowing the defender additional time to close and make a play on the ball.
When the quarterback extends the play, Cantrell gives up on his route rather than continuing his pattern or adjusting his route to give his quarterback an easier throw. As seen in the play below, Cantrell runs a shallow dig from the far right of the formation across the middle of the field. Almost immediately after making his turn inside, he decelerates and gives up on the play well before the quarterback releases the ball despite having plenty of open field in front of him.
When running deep routes outside the numbers, Cantrell will attempt to avoid contact, forcing him closer to the sideline and shrinking the window for his quarterback to place the football. He possesses adequate hands and allows too many passes into his body. He’s also prone to concentration drops.
Two examples of this are shown, the first coming against Oklahoma. Cantrell turns inside, while the quarterback throws the ball as if he expected Cantrell to turn outside. Trying to make a late adjustment, Cantrell watches the ball go right through his hands.
In the second example, Cantrell runs a rounded off curl route and looks to turn upfield before securing the catch.
After the catch, Cantrell displays marginal elusiveness and won’t outrun defenders to the end zone.
Overall, Dylan Cantrell is a fourth or fifth receiver at the next level who wins with mental processing skills and a physical style of play. He’s not someone who will create separation and give his quarterback a large window in which to place the football.
The Scouting Combine will be critical for Cantrell. In order for him to secure his place in the 2018 NFL Draft, he’s going to have to perform well in the receiver drills. He’s not expected to impress with his speed and agility, but he should put up some of the best numbers in the vertical and broad jumps. If he can catch everything thrown his way, a team will likely use a late-round pick to secure his services as a possession receiver who can block downfield. He’s not Danny Amendola, Michael Crabtree or even Keke Coutee, who should be a mid-round pick this year, but Cantrell has the tools to be yet another receiver from Texas Tech to make an impact at the next level.