Congratulations! You've just made the wonderful decision to draft Noah Fant! Like most new Noah Fant owners, you're no doubt filled with questions about your new family member. We here at GIA will try our best to answer any questions you might have.
HELLO DENVER BRONCOS!
With the 20th pick in the 2019 #NFLDraft
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) April 26, 2019
WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT NOAH FANT?
Let's look at two videos. First up:
"In the mix to be the first TE [taken in the draft]."@HawkeyeFootball TE Noah Fant runs a lightning fast 4.51u 40-yard dash!
— NFL (@NFL) March 2, 2019
#Iowa TE Noah Fant to the #Broncos at No.20 Matchup player in the passing game. 4.5 speed at 249 pounds with the ability to flex from the formation. Run the seam, corner, fade. pic.twitter.com/obEX0HcU3x
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) April 26, 2019
Noah Fant has a need. A need... for speed. That speed is why he became a first round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. When Fant ran an incredible 4.5 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine (see above) he essentially cemented his status us a first round pick. That kind of speed in a body the size of Fant's (6'4", 249 lbs) is a rare combination. Fant was anything but a combine creation, too -- he routinely displayed that speed during his college career at Iowa. You can see one example of that in the other clip above, which features him torching an Ohio State corner back on the edge.
Fant is the definition of a mismatch in the passing game. He's too big and strong to be covered by most defensive backs and too fast to be covered by most linebackers. His combination of size, speed, and overall athleticism is going to be brutal to try and defend; good luck, AFC West!
WHAT DID HE DO THAT'S SO GREAT?
After a quiet start as a true freshman in 2016, Fant really blew up at Iowa in 2017, when he led the nation in TD catches by a tight end with 11. He also averaged 16.5 yards per catch -- again, as a tight end. His receptions and yards went up in 2018, though his yards per catch and touchdowns went down, in part due to the emergence of T.J. Hockenson as another superweapon for Iowa at the tight end position, and in part due to some, uh, strangeness in Iowa's offensive playcalling.
But those numbers -- the gaudy yards per catch averages and the touchdowns -- really shine a bright light on what makes Fant such a special prospect. He's a threat to break a big play every time he catches the ball (21 of his 78 catches in college were for 15+ yards) and he's a magnet for the end zone. His size and outstanding athleticism make him especially dangerous around the red zone, where he can (and should) be a quarterback's favorite weapon.
As noted, Fant led the nation in yards per catch and touchdowns among all tight ends in 2017. His numbers dipped a bit in those categories in 2018, but he was still a very dynamic force in the passing game for Iowa.
HOW ARE HIS PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES?
Fant's physical dimensions don't necessarily leap off the page -- 6'4", 249 lbs, 33 1/2" arms, 9 3/4" hands -- but his performance in the NFL Scouting Combine certainly did:
|40 YD DASH||BENCH PRESS||VERT JUMP||BROAD JUMP||3 CONE||20 YD SHUTTLE||60 YD SHUTTLE|
|4.5 seconds||20 reps||39.5 in||127.0 in||6.81 sec||4.22 sec||11.49 sec|
Fant led all tight ends with his performance in the 40, the vertical and broad jumps, and his 3-cone drill. Fant has elite speed and acceleration at the tight end position, as well phenomenal leaping ability to go up and snag the ball out of the air. That, coupled with strong route running, can make him resemble a wide receiver in a tight end's body on the field.
WHAT ABOUT THE BAD?
Fant is a tremendous vertical threat and dangerous out of the slot, but he has some clear weaknesses as a receiver, too. He only forced three missed tackles during his Iowa career and he dropped 13 passes and only had four catches on contested balls, per PFF. Several of Fant's drops came on relatively short or easy passes; maintaining consistent focus was an issue for Fant at times. While Fant was a solid run blocker (and better than he often got credit for, though he suffered there in comparison to Hockenson), that's another area where he'll need to improve at in the NFL in order to turn himself into a consistent three-down player. He'll need to be more consistent about locating defenders and maintaining blocks to become a more effective run-blocker.
WAS THIS A GOOD PICK?
Yeah. Fant has enormous upside at tight end in the NFL. His best case scenario is probably that of another "move" tight end who hails from Iowa -- San Francisco's George Kittle. Kittle had one of the best tight end seasons of all-time in 2018, so Denver getting their own version of that ought to be pretty exciting for Bronco fans. Even if he doesn't quite reach that level, though, Fant has the skills to contribute right away as a mismatch weapon and big play threat in the passing game, which should be much appreciated by new Denver QB Joe Flacco. If Fant can improve his focus and his run-blocking, his ceiling might be as high as the stadium he'll now call home.