The recent trend of college players declining to participate in bowl games to better prepare for the NFL Draft shows little sign of stopping anytime soon. One of the biggest names to opt for this approach from the 2018 season was Iowa tight end Noah Fant. Fant declared in late November that he had played his last game for the Hawkeyes, “missing out” on a chance to perform in the Outback Bowl.
A tight end prospect coming out of Iowa will certainly garner some interest at the NFL level, especially after the form shown by George Kittle in his first two seasons with the 49ers. But when that TE was more productive in college than Kittle, more than a few eyebrows will be raised.
The College Years
Fant did little as a freshman in 2016, playing in only six games. But as a sophomore, he exploded into the national consciousness. Fant led the nation in yards per reception with 16.5. He also set a school record for TE touchdowns with 11. His junior season saw his YPR drop, but he still scored seven touchdowns.
Fant’s counting stats are slightly capped by the offense he was playing in. Iowa had a 0.84 Pass to Run ratio in 2018, with 37.5 rushing attempts per game against just 31.4 passes. Still, Fant did contribute a 16.1 percent share of the Hawkeyes receptions, 17.6 percent of the receiving yards and just over a quarter of all receiving touchdowns in the past year. Fant’s average of 0.63 receiving touchdowns per game over his career is far and away the most of any of his peers in this group of draft prospects, except for Jace Sternberger. Sternberger averaged 0.67 but in only 15 games.
Fant is listed at 6 feet 5 inches and 241 pounds. His receiving skill set was mentioned by Kyle Crabbs back in August, who noted that Fant was “one of the most freakish athletes in all of college football.” Kyle added that Fant
has [an] unbelievable blend of size and speed, [is] graceful in the open field and will be a mismatch nightmare for safeties and linebackers across the league.
Given his sub 250 weight, Fant profiles more as a move TE, not as someone who can be relied upon to get down and dirty in the blocking game. This handicap may see him dinged by some evaluators, but more forward-thinking teams will hopefully not try to fit this round peg into a square hole. Fant is a playmaker and should be used to make plays.
Fant’s speed is a good first step up the combine measurables tree, created by Kevin Cole from his article looking at The Combine Drills that matter for TEs.
Even if Fant can show sub 4.7 speed, he may have some troubles with the bench given his current size. But according to reports, he unleashed a 42-inch vertical jump during spring camp for the Hawkeyes. This would easily meet Kev’s 34-inch threshold.
The Kittle Effect may see some quickly surmise that Fant can be just as effective in the NFL. Kittle was an absolute monster during his pre-draft process and is rightly shown to be one of the most athletic TEs in the NFL at present. Fant’s workout numbers will be viewed with a great deal of interest, but as I previously noted in terms of college production, Fant exceeded Kittle’s production even with Kittle playing four years to Fant’s three.