Noah Fant Has a Superb Opportunity With the Denver Broncos
Noah Fant passes all the tests you would want from an NFL tight end prospect, and that should make Denver Broncos fans very, very excited.
The Iowa Hawkeyes prospect wasn't even considered the best tight end on his own team -- that honor belonged to T.J. Hockenson, whom was drafted eighth overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Still, Fant's profile is elite, and there really isn't anything not to like about him as a prospect. Denver offers up a pretty obvious opportunity for Fant to step in and produce from the get-go.
A Top-Tier Prospect
Fant stands 6'4" and 249 pounds and secured a position-best 4.5-second 40-yard dash, giving him a 99th-percentile size-adjusted speed score, via PlayerProfiler. But that wasn't all.
Fant posted the best vertical jump, the best broad jump, the best three-cone, and the best 60-yard shuttle among tight ends at the combine. Whew, mercy.
So the athleticism isn't a question. Neither is the size. How about the production?
Fant's dominator rating of 27.0% grades out in the 82nd percentile. In terms of yards per catch, he did rank 16th among 36 tight ends with at least 40 targets in 2018, via ExpandTheBoxScore.com, and he was 22nd in yards per target.
Fant, though, plays both out of the slot and gets targets down the field, and that versatility should help him make a real and fantasy football impact in the NFL.
Of course, with tight ends, the fit has to be right, and the player needs to block well enough to stay on the field consistently. ProFootballFocus gave Fant a pass blocking grade of 73.8 in 2018, paired with a run blocking grade of 65.9. He'll need work there, but we've seen a surge in pass-catching tight ends in recent seasons play a complementary role to a blocking tight end.
With Denver taking Fant 20th overall -- pretty high capital -- we can figure that Fant will see plenty of chances even if his blocking isn't quite there from Day 1.
Fant as a Bronco
Last season, the Broncos never had a legitimate threat at tight end. Jeff Heuerman led the team with 555 snaps (50.5 per game over his 11 games). Heuerman drew a target on just 8.6% of his snaps and generated 281 yards on those 49 looks.
All three boasted below-average per-target efficiency, based on numberFire's Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, so it's easy to see why tight end was a need.
The path for Fant is very open.
Again, Fant will need to improve his blocking before becoming a full-time tight end who pushes for 90% of Denver's snaps each week, but he can kick out to the slot or be the second tight end opposite Heuerman or LaCosse from the start. Plus, we can optimistically lean on the Joe Flacco-to-tight-end narrative as he transitions to the next level.
My initial projection for Fant in Denver is 71.9 targets, 44.1 receptions, 522.7 yards, and 3.6 touchdowns.