IOWA CITY, Iowa – It’s that time of year again for the list of indispensable Hawkeyes. For the 2017 rundown, I’m going to release my Top 15 via a countdown. Each day I’ll unveil a new player heading to No. 1.

A lot of media outlets weigh in on the most “important” Iowa players before the season. Everyone uses their own criteria.

For me, it’s not only what a given individual brings to the field, but also who’s projected to be behind him. That’s an important piece to the puzzle. That said, sometimes the backup fills in admirably as cornerback Manny Rugamba did last year.

As with most of these lists, they’re open for interpretation and debate. That’s the fun part of compiling them during the dog days of summer.

NO. 15 – Miles Taylor, SR, Strong Safety

NO. 14 – Brady Ross/Drake Kulick, Fullbacks

NO. 13 – Tyler Wiegers/Nathan Stanley, Quarterbacks

NO. 12 – Manny Rugamba, Cornerback

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No. 11 – Noah Fant, TE

Projected Backup – T.J. Hockenson/Shaun Beyer

Why He’s Here: Fant, Hockenson and Beyer arrived in Iowa City together as three athletic tight ends that can be mismatch nightmares for linebackers. Fant was the only one to play as a true freshman last fall and showed glimpses of star potential.

In 10 games of part-time duty in ’16, the Omaha product caught nine passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. He hauled in four of those receptions in the final two regular-season contests, showing he was trending up.

Fant (6-5, 220) looked confident and productive in the spring, getting behind linebackers and showing good hands. He’s poised for a big August camp.

Signs point to the tight end being a much bigger part of the offense with Brian Ferentz taking over the offensive coordinator controls from Greg Davis. The head coach’s son is expected to incorporate some of what he learned from coaching the position with the New England Patriots, who excel at utilizing that spot.

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April 19, 2018 — Nate Wieting Important Cog in Talented Iowa Tight End Room

Hawkeye junior walk-on knows his role and plays it well.

For Fant, the route running, hands, speed and other skills needed to be a threat in the passing game are there, although there’s certainly room for growth. His biggest strides from Year 1 to 2 must come in blocking, which isn’t unlike most young tight ends around here not named Tony Moeaki.

Affording Fant time to become physically stronger and better technique wise as a blocker is feasible this season. If he can be serviceable in that area, an experienced offensive line, set of fullbacks, and complementary blocking tight ends in Peter Pekar and Nate Wieting, allow the coaches to live with some mistakes and shortcomings in order to get his pass-catching skill set on the field.

I don’t like to put too much pressure on the young guys, but if you ask me who I think could break out this year, Fant would be at or neat the top of my list. I predict he’ll be higher on this list a year from now.

You can watch Fant catch some passes during Iowa’s spring practice in West Des Moines in the video below: