Noah Fant is being projected as a first round draft pick in the Class of 2019. His 11 touchdown receptions led tight ends in all of college football last season. His 42″ vertical leap would have been tops at the combine….the NBA combine.
Last year, he regularly outran defensive backs for long plays and he is growing into a solid blocker. Simply put, he is a mismatch, and perhaps the toughest mismatch Iowa has ever had at the tight end position.
Considering what Iowa has had there, that is high praise for a player who has been in college just two years, and barring injury and an unlikely steep decline in production, a player who will be there for just three years.
Here is where Iowa tight ends under Kirk Ferentz have been drafted, plus the highest draft picks at the position before Ferentz’s arrival:
. First things first, that is a heck of a list. Under the Kirk Ferentz era, Iowa is averaging one tight end drafted every other year. Think about it this way; if you are a two-year starter at tight end for Iowa, the statistics suggest that you will get drafted.
Barring injury, Fant will add his name to this list in 2019 or 2020. It’s highly likely that his teammate and fellow tight end TJ Hockenson will also add his name to this list in 2020 or 2021. Highly likely and perhaps a high draft pick.
I am from West Branch, Iowa and grew up watching Marv Cook play for my hometown. Marv later went to Iowa and earned All American status as a tight end. While he was there, he teamed with Mike Flagg to form the greatest TE tandem in school history. This year, I think Fant and Hockenson will outperform that duo.
Hockenson will get his day and his run…this item is about Fant, and what I think we are in the midst of witnessing.
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For contemporary fans, Dallas Clark is the gold standard for Iowa tight ends. Clark grabbed 81 passes for his career and averaged 15.8 yards per catch to go with eight touchdowns. His 2002 season saw him grab 43 passes for 742 yards (17.3 average) and four scores. 2002 was Clark’s fourth year on campus, as he was a redshirt junior that season, his last at Iowa as he won the Mackey Award and turned professional, being taken in the first round of of the 2003 NFL draft, the lone Iowa TE to go in round one.
Last year as a true sophomore (Fant didn’t turn 20 years old until the week of the Nebraska game), Fant caught 30 passes for 494 yards (16.5 avg) and 11 touchdowns. He has 12 touchdowns on his career, in two seasons. His 11 receiving touchdowns was one off the single season record of 12 held by Marvin McNutt, a wide receiver and tied him with Mo Brown for second, another wide receiver.
Fant has the body of a tight end but runs like a receiver…which is why pro scouts are drooling over his freakish measurables.
If Clark isn’t the best tight end in Iowa history, it’s Marv Cook.
Cook caught 126 passes for his Iowa career, a mark that ranks 12th best in school history and most among tight ends. He caught 49 passes in 1987 for 803 yards and 63 receptions for 767 yards in 1988. Those two seasons are in the top 16 best for yardage in a year in school history and Cook is the lone tight end. Cook’s average of 16.4 yards per catch in 1987 was better than Tim Dwight’s average yards per catch during his junior year in 1996, with Dwight catching just two more passes. Simply put, Cook was a weapon.
Fant won’t have the career stats that Cook had, but only because I think Fant won’t see his senior year at Iowa. Fant runs better than either Cook or Clark, who were both excellent runners for their era. Cook is the best blocker in the bunch and likely still the best all-around tight end in Iowa history.
However, Fant has a chance to surpass Cook, and possibly even Clark, on the NFL draft tote board.
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Could Noah Fant perform at a level this year that might get him drafted higher than any other TE in Iowa history? Higher than Clark’s 24th overall pick?
He has the skill and talent, which will give him a shot.
By the way, don’t forget Scott Chandler’s Iowa stats. 117 receptions are behind just Cook’s 126 for tight ends. And if only Tony Moeaki could have stayed healthy…he might have been the tight end at Iowa with the best combination of blocking and receiving skills.