With two weeks before the 2019 NFL Draft, many mock drafts have two tight ends going in the first round. Both of them come for the same school.
That's made the draft process easier for Iowa tight end Noah Fant, who competed against fellow Hawkeye and top-10 prospect T. J. Hockenson for the past two seasons. In doing so, Fant developed the necessary work ethic to evolve into an elite tight end, with some analysts believing the Redskins will take him with the 15th-overall pick.
“It’s a friendly competition. It always has been; always will be," Fant said during his press conference at the NFL Combine in March. "I hope for the best, but that’s why we come out here. We come out here to compete. We come out here to run as fast as we can, throw up as much weight. It’s going to be fun.”
Fant has also been in frequent contact with San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle, who played the position at Iowa from 2013 to 2016. He's prepped Fant on a variety of topics, ranging from interviewing at the NFL Combine to serving as a "big brother" to Fant as he aims to follow in Kittle's footsteps.
"He’s a great guy and I look up to him,” Fant said. “He’s done a lot for me, keeping in touch with me and giving me advice. It inspires me and gives me an opportunity to get into the NFL and do the same thing.”
During his three-year career at Iowa, Fant caught 78 passes for 1,083 yards and 19 touchdowns He was at his best last season, amassing 519 yards and seven scores on his way to earning first-team All-Big Ten honors.
According to Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network, Fant “has the physical skills and receiving chops to be the next big thing at the TE position in the NFL. The league has never been friendlier to flex targets, and Fant runs like a receiver and leaps like a basketball pro. Fant is a nightmare in space and will excel in a vertical passing offense that can implement him in the middle of the field. With soft hands and elite athletic ability, Fant should be a volume target at the NFL level and will have an impact fairly early into his pro career.”
Due to his remarkable play as a pass-catcher, some have viewed Fant as a one-dimensional player. But in his mind, that's hardly the case.
“I’ve improved tremendously in my eyes,” Fant said of his blocking ability. “I’ve put on weight, I’ve put on my strength. I feel like those are the biggest things as I’ve progressed through my career. I came in at 220 and now I’m at 250, so it’s been a good transition. I’ve put all lean muscle mass on. I think my body fat percent is like 12 percent. It’s not fat; it’s all good muscle. It’s been a pleasure to do that. It’s been a pleasure to work with [Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle]; him helping me get there.”
Fant credits Iowa's style of play for making him a versatile tight end. The Hawkeyes' slow-paced, smash-mouth offense is predicated on using multiple tight ends, which allowed Fant and Hockenson to earn plenty of reps early in their careers. It's also why several Hawkeyes tight ends have gone on to have success at the professional level.
"It’s not just a program where you run routes or you just catch balls," Fant said. "You have to do both. You have to put your hand in the dirt and you have to split out. That’s kind of where I pride myself on and where I fit into the offense. I was able to be inline, I was able to be flexed out, I was able to be an isolated receiver. Definitely a versatile place, and they’re able to develop their guys."
Take a look at photos from Friday March 2, 2019 at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine. Photos from NFL.
Fant has separated himself from other tight end prospects in part due to his natural athleticism. At the NFL combine, he impressed scouts and executives by running the 40-yard dash in 4.50 seconds and the 60-yard shuttle in 11.49. He also displayed tremendous leaping ability with a 39.5-inch vertical jump and a 127-inch broad jump. All of these marks were tops among tight ends.
While professional evaluators could not ignore his athleticism, Fant believes some people are overlooking his strength. He put up 20 reps at bench press at the Combine, which was the sixth-most for his position.
“Showing my power, my bench and blocking drills in the field workout,” Fant said about what he wants to show scouts that they cannot see on film. “Showing people that, 'Hey, this guy has power with the best of them.' I feel like I’ve done that. I feel like I’ve worked for that and it’s been great to prepare for this combine process.”