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Recently, the Iowa Hawkeyes have been turning into "Tight End U". The Hawkeyes have recently produced tight ends Dallas Clark (2003), Scott Chandler (2007), C.J. Fiedorowicz (2014), and George Kittle (2017). Their proud lineage of tight ends continues on in 2019 with Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson. In this report, I will be going over Fant.
Noah Fant: The next George Kittle?
Weight: 251 lbs
D.O.B: 11/20/1997 (age 21)
College Dominator: 27.2%
Breakout Age (BOA): 19
Fant came into Iowa as a three-star recruit out of Omaha South Magnet High School. At the time, Fant had 13 college offers, but only visited and ultimately committed to Iowa. Fant was a multi-sport athlete in high school, playing both basketball and competing in track (sprints, high jump, and triple jump).
Fant's college career was filled with drama. First off, on the same day Fant sustained a concussion against Minnesota, his brother tweeted displeasure about the coach's use of Fant on the field. Secondly, Fant's coach later came out and used the word "specialist" as a description of his game. Also, in 2017 Fant was held up in a park by a man and asked to leave.
Fant may be one of the best overall athletes in this draft class and a true mismatch on the field. Vertically, he has the ability to gain separation immediately on his first step and will eat a defender's cushion up quickly. Throughout Fant's routes, he does not lose speed when changing his direction. In a man to man scheme where he is lined up against a linebacker, Fant has the ability to get deep quickly. In zone concepts, Fant is able to win with his initial acceleration and can find soft spots in the coverage.
Though the reception totals are not gaudy, Fant has above average hands. He also has the ability to make routine catches and make the high-difficulty level catches look routine. So what makes Fant stand out from the crowd? Most noteworthy, his contested catch and jump ball ability. Fant displays excellent spacial awareness to use his frame and shield the incoming pass from defenders. Fant's jump ball ability could be correlated to his vertical testing at Iowa (42.1 inches). This data point combined with Fant's exceptional body control sheds light on his ability to sky over defenders and be a fantastic red zone target.
Similar to many athletic tight ends before him, Fant finds himself relying on the flashy plays and has not yet developed his game in the trenches. Saying Fant cannot block is inaccurate. In fact, he plays inline and at h-back frequently in the Hawkeye's system and is functional overall in the run game. Where Fant lacks true difference-making ability, like the rest of his game, is in the point of attack. He also does not deliver a strong initial punch to his defender.
To summarize, in 2017 Fant led the nation for touchdowns by a tight end with 11 and led the nation in yards per catch, averaging 16.5. Fant's 11 touchdown receptions also set a Hawkeye's record for touchdown catches by a tight end. Overall, Fant's 19 touchdown receptions are the most ever by a Hawkeyes tight end and he ranks fourth in school history. He also ranks third best all-time among Big Ten tight ends.
Fant started producing, to some level, in his age 18 season and continued to build on a strong start. While many will muse about how much better Hockenson is, I would argue Fant did more and at a younger age.
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