Understands how to use angles in order to create more separation;
knows how to set up his routes, including widening his release
to give his quarterback a larger target area on downfield throws.
(2:05, 2:10, 5:37)
Almost impossible for a linebacker/safety to defend down
the seam if he isn't redirected at the line of scrimmage. (1:24, 2:17, 2:37, 2:41, 3:10, 6:03)
Tracks the ball over his shoulder well and able to catch
away from his body. (0:00, 2:37,
Better blocker than he is generally given credit for; drives
his defender out of the play on a regular basis (0:06,
1:11, 1:39, 3:54, 4:13) and more than capable of getting
his guy on the ground. (1:19,
1:34, 3:03, 3:13)
Focus drops were an issue (1:37,
3:11, 4:20); although he improved in this
area in 2018, he was charged with 13 drops on 91 catchable targets
over his career, per Pro Football Focus.
Physicality; gets pushed off track during routes.
Allows himself to go down on the first tackle attempt too
often (only broke two tackles last season).
Why wasn't he used more often? Amassed 78 catches - 19 of
which went for touchdowns - in 30 games despite being the most
obvious mismatch in just about every game.
It was once said the only person who could stop Michael Jordan
was Dean Smith (his coach at North Carolina for all the millennials
out there). While it would be ridiculous to suggest Fant will
be to football what Jordan was to basketball, the point is that
a coaching philosophy can stymie a player's production as much
as anything a defense can throw at him. It also doesn't help matters
the majority of college offensive coordinators are so fascinated
with spread concepts and tempo that they don't bother taking advantage
of the player who often gives the offense the best matchup more
often than not: tight ends. Once could make the case that last
year's uber-athlete at tight end (Mike Gesicki) was underutilized
at Penn State and he still finished with 129 career catches, including
57 in his final season. Fant never caught more than 40 passes
despite scoring a touchdown every 4.1 receptions.
The good thing about Fant's public perception is that virtually
no one appears to be overly concerned about his college production.
While George Kittle and 2018 teammate T.J. Hockenson may be better
all-around players, Fant is arguably the best athlete and the
most unique weapon of the bunch. Imagine for a second trying to
find a second or third level of a defense capable of running a
sub-4.5 (speed) and serve as a deterrent for a 6-4 receiver (size).
Now imagine that same defender also having a 40-inch vertical
(explosion), an 80-inch wingspan (width, horizontally and vertically)
and 6.81 three-cone time (explosion) - the last of which ranked
11th among all players at the 2019 NFL Combine. I'm not sure that
kind of defender exists and, if he does, he may be the only one.
Perhaps the best part of Fant is that he is not merely a superb
athlete, as he ran a varied route tree at Iowa and was well-schooled
in some of the tricks of the trade when it comes to accentuating
his vast talent.
Blocking is the one area Fant seems to get the most criticism.
It's not completely unwarranted, but it has been overblown to
a large degree. Yes, he doesn't show the same tenacity that Hockenson
does, but there aren't many college tight ends that do. Drops
are a bigger concern, but his issues in this area are more surprising
than alarming. Fant's upside is massive, and all it is going to
take is a creative NFL play-caller to move him from H-back to
the slot to the outside to in-line and a few matchups against
5-9 corners or box safeties before coordinators start trying to
scheme up defenses designed to stop him. I would imagine he will
struggle out of the gate as most rookies do at his position, but
it's hard to imagine he won't be a key part of his team's offensive
attack sooner than later. He's a better overall prospect than
Ebron was in 2014 and more polished, so it would be highly disappointing
if he wasn't one of the 10 most-feared pass-catchers at his position
by the end of the 2020 season. There's enough bust potential here
for teams to hold off drafting him until the end of the first
round, but there's also limitless upside (and multiple Pro Bowls
in his future) if he is willing to put the time into his game.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.