Editor’s Note: The season is just beginning for DLF! We begin our 2019 Early Look series today as the new year really puts our rookie coverage into high gear. Enjoy all we have to offer in the upcoming months and thanks to all of you for making DLF the world’s number one dynasty fantasy football site.
The 2019 tight end class is shaping up to be a promising one and Noah Fant figures to headline it. In nearly all of the devy drafts I have been a part of over the last year or so, there was one player who owners repeatedly hoped fell to them and Fant was clearly the one. Let’s take a look at what has everyone so excited about him.
AS A RECRUIT
Fant was only a three-star recruit (0.8665 composite score) coming out of Omaha, Nebraska. However, he was the top recruit out of Nebraska and the 31st-ranked athlete, a sneak preview into what makes him such a tantalizing prospect. He received offers from 12 colleges, including Iowa State, UCLA, Nebraska, and Iowa, the last being the school he ultimately decided to enroll in.
Before Iowa, he attended Omaha South Magnet High School in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska and ended up breaking the school touchdown record in 2014. His basketball team also won the state championship his senior year.
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Iowa has unofficially become “Tight End University.” After spitting out Dallas Clark and, more recently, George Kittle, current tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson are two of the best tight ends in the country.
While tight ends rarely produce much in college, Fant has been productive the last two years. His 11 touchdowns in 2017 are tied for the second-best single season in Iowa history and his 19 total touchdowns rank fourth all-time at the university. Both are top marks for tight ends.
Stats courtesy of sports-reference.com
After a strong sophomore season, many expected him to take a big leap forward as a junior this year. However, that did not pan out. He saw his role change into more of a passing-down “specialist” with teammate T.J. Hockenson taking care of many of the blocking assignments. Some have even said they think Hockenson is the better NFL prospect. While I prefer Fant for fantasy purposes, both Iowa tight ends are in my top three at the position – this speaks to how well Iowa has been able to recruit and develop their tight ends.
Simply put, Noah Fant is an athletic freak. I am not a fan of comparisons because they almost never pan out and every player is unique. However, Noah Fant’s athletic profile is reminiscent of a bigger version of Evan Engram. Like Engram, blocking is a weakness for Fant and might keep him off the field on certain downs, but their athleticism and receiving skills are exactly what you want for fantasy purposes. Below are Fant’s athletic scores from Nike’s The Opening back in 2016.
Testing results courtesy of ESPN.com
As you can see, he was near the top in all five categories. Keep in mind this was back in 2016, though. The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, who placed Fant sixth on his annual freaks list, has heard Fant has recently recorded a 42-inch vertical, which would blow his old score out of the water. I am expecting him to crush his 40-yard dash time at the combine as well. He demonstrates his speed in the clip below. He does not necessarily make any defenders miss on this play, but he showcases how he can turn a short pass into a big play at any point in the game.
- Straight-line speed
- Vertical jump
- Exceptional character
- Strong work ethic
- Versatility to line up in-line or as a move tight end
- Needs to work on in-line blocking technique. Could take him off the field in certain packages.
- Ceding playing time and targets to teammate T.J. Hockenson this past year is a little worrisome, but both players are elite prospects.
- Needs to work on catching technique and attacking the football at the catch point
Noah Fant is my top tight end in the 2019 class. Mel Kiper Jr. recently listed Fant as the top tight end on his yearly Big Board as well. While nothing is set in stone, I expect Fant’s combine numbers to generate serious buzz within the draft community and solidify himself as the top tight end prospect of the class. I envision his athletic testing and college production creating a tantalizing prospect score filled with potential and his strong character to shine through during the interview process. In a draft filled with defensive talent and very few, if any, first-round quarterback and running back prospects, I could see Fant being selected in the back half of the first round. Some of the teams I could see taking Fant include the Broncos, Raiders (gulp), Bengals, and Cardinals.
Tight ends usually excel for fantasy purposes on teams who lack an elite number-one receiver. The Broncos currently fit this description with Courtland Sutton still developing and General Manager/President of Football Operations John Elway recently said they need to “get better on the offensive side” of the ball. The Broncos are probably one of my favorite landing spots for Fant, but I am not sure they use the tenth overall pick on a tight end unless they move back in the first round.
The Raiders are currently a wasteland, but that might be beneficial for an incoming tight end looking for targets. Add in the fact starting tight end Jared Cook is an unrestricted free agent this off-season. I’m just not sold on the Raiders turning their offense around anytime soon. The Raiders currently hold three first-round picks in the upcoming draft, two of them coming in the 20-30 range, but this is my least favorite landing spot of the four outlined here.
The Bengals are another team with an intriguing landing spot but another who would likely need to trade back from the 11th pick. They have an elite but aging A.J. Green and a new head coach coming in to shake things up.
Another great landing spot is the Cardinals. They have the first pick of the second round and could really use another weapon for promising young quarterback Josh Rosen. Christian Kirk played well in his rookie season and showed great chemistry with Josh Rosen, but Larry Fitzgerald is on the brink of retirement and Chad Williams has not progressed as much as some expected. Rosen enjoys targeting the middle of the field and a talented tight end could do wonders for his development. Ricky Seals-Jones was up-and-down all year and does not seem like a long-term answer at the position. With Steve Wilks out of town and Mike McCoy long gone, hopefully the next set of coaches in Arizona installs a more productive offensive scheme.
If Fant is indeed selected in the first round of the NFL draft, he will likely be a first-round pick in dynasty rookie drafts. I could see him creeping up into the middle of the first in rookie drafts, somewhere around the 1.06-1.10 range depending on which team he lands with. The lack of elite running back prospects in this class will likely push him further up rookie draft boards than a tight end would normally go. As a result, Fant will likely be drafted before I would be willing to take him. I really like the player, but I have a hard time spending that early of a rookie pick on a position which traditionally takes the longest to develop. I will likely only own Fant in the devy leagues I already acquired him in.
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