#29 Noah Fant, Tight End, Iowa
Since they play the same position and attended the same school, Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson are probably going to be compared to each other for their entire careers, so why don’t we go ahead and start the comparison now? Last season, Hockenson bested Fant in receiving yards (760 to 519) and Fant had one more touchdown than Hockenson. While Fant is an excellent receiver and a better athlete than Hockenson, the latter is a better blocker and thus, a more complete tight end. Fant’s receiving abilities and athleticism make him the matchup nightmare offensive coordinators are looking for from the tight end position.
Fant is exceptionally good after the catch as exemplified by his 4.5-second 40-yard dash, which ranked first among tight ends at the combine. That kind of speed from a tight end is rare. He is also a great route runner who is able to find the holes in zone coverage and sit in those holes. At 6’4”, Fant is able to combine his height and great hands to catch the ball at its highest point; this allows him to get his hands on the ball before the defender can. He does struggle against physical coverage and needs to learn how to use his body to beat physical coverage. He also isn’t much of a factor as a run blocker and NFL teams won’t be able to rely on him with one on one blocks. Overall, if Fant can improve upon his strength and maintain his athleticism, he could become a Pro Bowl caliber tight end.
Fit for the Raiders
Noah Fant would be a great replacement for tight end Jared Cook. If drafted, Fant would be an excellent third receiving option and another big body for quarterback Derek Carr to throw to. The value of the tight end position as a whole isn’t very high in the NFL and that makes it difficult to pinpoint where Fant will be drafted and explains why you might see a significant variance in Fant’s draft projection. If he is still on the board at pick 27, expect Raiders head coach Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock to pull the trigger on him.
Tight end might be the Raiders second biggest need and Fant is exactly what they should be looking for. Gruden loves to use tight ends and Fant’s athleticism might seal the deal for Gruden.
Another one of Jared Cooks’ former teams, the Packers, have been looking for a tight end ever since Cook departed for Oakland. They brought in Jimmy Graham last season, but he only managed two touchdowns and is 32-years old. Having Graham in the roster shouldn’t prevent Green Bay from targeting Fant.
Another team looking to replace their tight end is the Patriots. Fant won’t be able to completely fill the void Gronk leaves behind, but he can certainly pick up some of the slack.