Rookie Scouting Report: Tight End Noah Fant
Noah Fant, Iowa
Weight: 249 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.50 seconds
Vertical: 39.5 inches
Broad Jump: 127 inches
You know how they say that figuring out NFL talent is like splitting hairs because of how close the talent-level is? Well, Fant did all he could to separate himself from the competition at the NFL Combine where he demolished other tight ends. His 40-time of 4.50 seconds was easily the best among tight ends and would have been 19th among 37 wide receivers, and 10th among 22 running backs. His vertical jump was two inches higher than any other tight end, and his broad jump was four inches longer than any tight end. His 3-Cone drill was a full 0.21 seconds faster than the next closest at his position.
While his athletic measurements were incredibly impressive, his numbers while at Iowa weren’t as dominant. After not playing much his freshman year (behind George Kittle), Fant posted 69 receptions for 1,013 yards and 18 touchdowns over the next two years (span of 24 games) while sharing the load with fellow first-round prospect T.J. Hockenson. Fant is known as the better receiver of the two by many, but should that make him the first tight end off the board?
Size/Versatility: 3.0 out of 5 stars
He’s going to be used primarily as a receiver, as he’s lined up in the slot quite a bit. He’s built extremely well to weather the hits he’ll take over the middle of the field as a possession-style tight end. It’s odd that he’s smaller than Hockenson, as he played and looked bigger than him, particularly in the upper body. Fant is going to be a glorified wide receiver at the next level, which doesn’t help teams looking for an all-around tight end, but he’s versatile in the fact that he can help create mismatches on the field for defenses.
Route Running/Ability to Separate: 2.5 out of 5 stars
He needs to do a better job selling his routes, as I watched a few defenders who were easily able to read the play due to him not selling his direction. There were also plenty of times where I saw a defender predict when his break was going to come. He needs to do better at avoiding contact in-route, as he continually gets thrown off his trajectory by a defender in his way, something you don’t see all that often. The best part is that his issues are correctable and don’t need to be perfect because he’s not a wide receiver and has plenty of speed to create separation, but he’s still yet to reach his ceiling. He was also tasked with running a variety of routes, which is good for his availability out of the gate.
Speed: 4.0 out of 5 stars
He’s got exceptional speed for a guy who’s 6-foot-4 and 249 pounds, though his play-speed is a bit inconsistent. When he puts the pedal to the floor, there’s not going to be any linebacker who’ll be able to hang with him, but it seems like he’s not a full-go at all times (maybe half the time). There were even times he’d outrun cornerbacks on the perimeter, something not many tight ends can do. If you go back to his 2017 film, you can see him run past last year’s first-round pick Denzel Ward. His speed is definitely a strength to his game, though I’d like to see him apply it more frequently.
Hands/High-Pointing: 3.5 out of 5 stars
He has very solid hands, can adjust to the ball being thrown behind him and catch the ball seemingly effortlessly. He tracks the ball over his shoulder very well, too, in a way that not many tight ends do. He wasn’t used on many jump-ball situations, but he likely possesses the ability to go up and over a defender to snag the ball if needed based on how strong his hands are and how high his vertical is.
After the Catch: 2.5 out of 5 stars
He’s a solidly built tight end and highly athletic, which makes him tough to bring down in general, but he’s nothing above average when you consider others at his position. His speed will help make him a bit more elusive in the open field, but he’s not someone who’ll break many more tackles than the average tight end in the NFL.
Blocking: 1.5 out of 5 stars
He’s not a guy you’re going to have stay in and block very often. He’s late out of his stance and doesn’t have the desire to be great at it. When he puts forth the effort, he had the strength to get some push in the run-game against linebackers, but it wasn’t nearly often enough. There are times where he won’t even get a hand on his assignment, something that should never happen. This is the weakest point of his game and why some have whispered that he’s essentially just a big wide receiver.
Potential Landing Spot
It wouldn’t shock anyone to see Fant go anywhere from No. 9 overall to No. 32 overall, though he’ll likely go somewhere in-between. You want to find a team who has a sturdy blocking tight end on the roster, because Fant is not going to help in that area right away. The Seahawks are a team who can use a big red zone option and possession-style receiver, similar to the way they used Jimmy Graham, so Fant could be the guy alongside Will Dissly. The Texans could also be a dark horse team to select him, though they really need help on the offensive line. Lastly, the Raiders still need to replace Jared Cook and Fant is likely a better version of him, so watch for them at either pick No. 24 or No. 27.
He’s kind of a mix between Eric Ebron and Jimmy Graham. It’s tough to use Graham exclusively because we haven’t seen Fant go up-and-over defenders like Graham does, even if I believe he possesses the ability. He’s highly athletic like Ebron and doesn’t do much blocking, though I think he has much better hands than Ebron. If you can get him into an offense that heavily utilizes the tight end position, particularly down the field, Fant is going to be a hit in the NFL and one fantasy owners will love.