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Rookie Spotlight - Noah Fant


After trading back in the first round with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Denver Broncos used the 20th pick to grab Iowa tight end Noah Fant. Fant was arguably the number one or two tight end on the board depending coming into the draft depending on who you talked to. For fantasy purposes, he should be your TE 1.

Fant put up some great receiving numbers in college despite playing in a relatively low-powered offense, and he showed at the combine that he has the athleticism to be the next great tight end in the NFL. For a couple of reasons, he's been compared to San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle. Both are from Iowa, and they both have athleticism and size that are so hard to find at their position. He can a matchup nightmare for Denver. It just depends on how much they use him early on.

Fant is set up to succeed in Year 1. At the end of the day though, he'll have to use the skills that have helped him get to this point.

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So Much Athleticism

At the NFL Combine, Fant was the number one TE performer in every category except three. He had the fastest 40-yard dash time, and he showed off a ton of explosiveness in the broad and vertical jumps. The comparisons to Kittle only got louder after that performance. He has the size and athleticism to create a mismatch no matter who is covering him. Cornerbacks are too small. Linebackers are too slow, and safeties that can stick with him are few and far between.

Fant played in an offense that was just 43rd in the country in points per game last season. He didn't care and scored a bunch anyway. He had seven touchdowns last year, and that didn't even count the 11 he had the previous season. At 6'4" and 250 pounds, most players aren't able to move like he was, and he took advantage of it. His route-running was some of the crispest that you'll find at the tight end position, especially for a rookie.

It's rare for a tight end to go in the first round without being an absolute slam-dunk prospect. Fant can be that level of player. Tight ends don't typically contribute in Year 1, but that's what Fant is poised to do as long as he picks up the offense quickly. From Week 1 on, he should be racking up big plays on a regular basis for the Broncos offense.

 

A Great Situation

As things stand right now, the number two and three tight ends on the roster, behind Fant, are Jeff Heuerman and Tony Fumagalli. This tight end job is already in Fant's hands. Neither of those players have ever been the prospect that Fant is, and they don't have the talent ceiling to take the starting job away from him. GM John Elway is looking to take this team back to the Super Bowl, and he's going to do that with a great defense and more offensive weapons for quarterback Joe Flacco and eventually rookie quarterback Drew Lock.

Fant will be given every opportunity to succeed from Day 1. The key for him will be to take advantage of the situation at hand. How often are rookies just handed the opportunity to be one of the team's top receiving options from Day 1? It's rare. Life is all about understanding your opportunity, and that's what Fant has to do to be the top-10 fantasy tight end that he can be. He has to learn NFL defenses and how he can take advantage of them with his abilities.

Flacco has played with a number of tight ends in his career, and Fant is the most athletic he's ever had. When the Baltimore Ravens went to the Super Bowl, tight end Dennis Pitta was the third receiving option that he went to. Fant can be that guy for Flacco as long as he gets that chemistry established early. With his talent, he could even become the number one option similar to how Kittle plays with the 49ers.

 

What to Expect in 2019

As long as he stays healthy, Fant can be a top-10 fantasy tight end this season. If everything goes really well, especially in the red zone, he could be a top-five option. His combination of size and athleticism are just not something that you see very often at the tight position. Players like him are frequently used in the red zone, and they're great in the middle of the field. His offensive coordinator, Rich Scangarello, comes from the 49ers organization that just watched Kittle become the single-season tight end yardage leader last year.

Fant isn't at that level yet, but he can have a year like that for the Broncos. As wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders recovers from his Achilles injury and fellow wideout Courtland Sutton gets up to speed, that will give Fant all the more opportunity to be a key piece of the offense early and often. He could easily get to the 100 targets and 70 catches mark. With his athleticism, he could turn those catches into a high-yardage mark when it's over.

No tight end has ever won the AP NFL Rookie of the Year award. It's not something that happens because most rookie tight ends aren't put into situations where they are going to be a top receiving option in a rookie class that didn't see a ton of top offensive talent. Other players in this class are likely going to take some time to develop, and, if Fant is able to approach his 2019-20 ceiling, he could become the first.

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