2019 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Ht: 6'5" Wt: 232
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Evaluated by: Austin Smith
Fant was the tight end everyone was talking about entering the 2018 season, and while teammate T.J. Hockenson has since moved into that spotlight, Fant is still going to be a hot commodity during the draft process. While Hockenson is described as the ideal, inline tight end, Fant is a good example of what every team wants in a "move" tight end. Even better, Fant has experience playing as an inline player as well, making him one of the more versatile tight ends in this class.
Fant's numbers won't blow anyone away, but that doesn't mean he wasn't impressive. Fant caught 30 passes in 2017, averaging 16.5 yards per reception and getting into the end zone 11 times. That is impressive for a tight end. He caught 39 balls this past season, averaging 13.3 yards with another seven scores. So the big play ability is there, and while he may not be the same blocker as Hockenson, he certainly has experience in the area. Still, its his athleticism that everyone is going to covet. He is an explosive athlete that is going to have offensive coordinators salivating at the opportunity to infuse him into their system. His ability to accelerate at his size, with his ability to elevate make him a matchup nightmare for just about anyone.
As a pass catcher, there isn't much I haven't seen Fant accomplish. He won deep with his speed, but it's the crossing routes that really show off his ability to run. There just aren't many linebackers or safeties that can run step for step with him. Perhaps the most impressive play I saw him make in 2018 was on the goal line against Wisconsin. He was sent in motion where he stopped and reversed direction behind the line. He exploded back in the opposite direction and the ball was snapped as he reached the edge of the box. Fant exploded into the flat and the defensive back had zero chance of keeping pace with him getting the running start. It's a play we see a lot from fast receivers that is tough to defend.
To be clear, Fant is expected to measure just shy of six foot five inches, and weigh in around 245 pounds. He also occasionally ran bubble screens designed for slot players that are dangerous in the open field. Anytime you see a team design plays like that for a player, you know the guy is a special athlete, and the fact that Fant is a tight end makes it that much more impressive. As a route runner, he has an advanced feel for eating the defensive backs cushion, while also getting them to open their hips the way he wants. He wasn't asked to run many routes like that, but that may change in the NFL. He also has the size and long arms to run possession routes, and he sinks his hips well to get in and out of his breaks and gain separation. Fant has natural hands and tracks the ball extremely well, and his ability to jump makes those skills that much more valuable.
As a blocker, he has played on the line and off it. Fant's long arms are a strength in this area, and with more work on his hand placement and footwork, he could develop into an above-average blocker. He will also need to add strength. Right now, his reach is more effective than his punch but with more power, Fant can get defenders off-balance and that will lead to success as a blocker. While some "move" tight ends are asked to be lead blockers as well, Fant is a taller player that doesn't get the kind of leverage necessary to continuously move players.
When it comes to Fant the person, he appears to be quite humble. He was easily considered the top weapon on the Iowa offense entering the season, yet there were games where he didn't touch the ball until the fourth quarter. Still, his effort was never a question. Think about some of the high-profile pass-catchers and how they would react to not touching the ball for three quarters of play. Even when Hockenson started to steal some of the spotlight at tight end, we didn't see Fant turn into the diva that many players would have in this situation. He's a team-first guy, and he works to have success, no matter the task.
The NFL is starting to incorporate more modern offensive systems, and Fant's skillset is a perfect fit. Offensive coordinators want players that present mismatches for opposing defenses. Linebackers and safeties are going to struggle with his athleticism, but corners are going to struggle with his size. His ability to run a variety of routes, and even be a serviceable blocker also makes him that much more of a weapon. I've got Hockenson rated slightly higher than Fant, but depending on what kind of skillset a team wants either could be the first tight end off the board. I can't imagine Fant getting out of the first round but if he does, look for teams to target him early on day two.
NFL player Comparison
Eric Ebron was an incredible athlete coming out of North Carolina, and while he was more of an oversized wide receiver, he quickly transformed into a more versatile player in Detroit. His combine workout was incredible, and it jolted him into the tenth overall pick. While Ebron never lived up to that draft slot, Detroit could have been part of the problem in that scenario. In his first season with Indianapolis, he put up career-highs in receptions (66), Yards (750), and touchdowns (13), prompting his first Pro Bowl selection. Fant has similar ability, but will need an offensive coordinator that can take advantage of his skills. The one area Fant and Ebron don't match is with their ball skills. Ebron has struggled with drops in his career and that won't be the case with Fant.
- Terrific speed for the position
- Outstanding leaper
- Was asked to run a variety of routes at Iowa
- More experience as a blocker than the typical college tight end
- Can create mismatches across the formation
- Long arms and size give him a large catch radius
- Natural ball skills
- Will never be a dominant blocker
- Needs to add strength
- Plays a bit high at times
|Scouting Video Courtesy of College Football Films|