The sweat drips off of John Elway’s brow as he peers over at Matt Russell and Joe Ellis. He knows everything has come to this. Elway has certainly had the chance to ‘pull a Magic Johnson’ and step down during some of the most trying times in Denver Broncos’ history. Instead, Elway has stood tall, taking questions about Chris Harris Jr.’s contract situation, Joe Flacco as a franchise QB and Tommy Maddox being selected in the first round while John was on the team.
Elway has grit and a plan. Noah Fant was selected by the Broncos with the 20th overall pick to help with reliability on offense at the tight end position and open up Vic Fangio’s playbook as a first-year head coach. When Owen Daniels moved on to retirement, the Broncos were left without a reliable target at tight end and Fant eases the sting of the Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt and Troy Fumagalli picks.
The aforementioned 26-year-old Heuerman has come on strong after being selected with the 92nd overall pick in the 2015 draft out of Ohio State. Heuerman played well enough to earn a new contract in Denver (2 years, $8 million), but there was no stopping the momentum Fant built as a first team All-Big Ten selection. Fant was sticking out like a sore thumb at the 20th overall pick.
OK, Noah Fant, OK. Fant dominates the 40-yard dash on Saturday morning.pic.twitter.com/15iY8kuQWE— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 2, 2019
A superstar athlete at Iowa, Fant offers run-after-catch ability and has drawn comparisons to Eric Ebron and Evan Engram. Fant’s talents will be a welcome sight for a Denver Broncos team that ranked 24th in yards per pass attempt (6.7) in 2018. Denver had traded out of the pick at number ten overall with Devin Bush, Dwayne Haskins, Jonah Williams and Drew Lock still available for the taking.
With both Butt and Heuerman seemingly healthy as training camp approaches, the Broncos Country fascination with tight ends from the Big Ten will continue into this summer and result in a heated competition for reps early on. Fant has never shied away from competition on his own team. The number eight pick in the draft, TJ Hockenson (73 receptions, 1,080 yards, 9 TDs in two years at Iowa), created a perfect tandem with Fant for two straight years. Fant landed an official 4.50 40-yard dash time, fastest among tight ends at the 2019 combine, and he navigates through traffic with ease.
Joe Flacco gets another weapon and Courtland Sutton gets a new running mate— Bleacher Report NFL (@BR_NFL) April 26, 2019
Broncos select Noah Fant No. 20 overall pic.twitter.com/a8RL0Xvp3d
One of the most tantalizing talents in the draft, the swift-footed Fant has a knack for being great. He is a dynamo, a mismatch for NFL defenses, and should be considered a value pick for Denver at 20, after trading back with Pittsburgh and collecting more assets. A good fit in Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello’s system, Fant should prove to be a vertical threat as a move tight end. Fant likely will be the unquestioned red zone favorite of Joe Flacco early on. In 2017, Flacco’s last full season as a starter, he completed 99 passes to tight ends, second in the NFL. Fant’s biggest problem may be shaking the lack of utilization he suffered at Iowa at the hands of Hockenson.
The Broncos have found a player that lets the film do the talking, and John Elway has landed a tough athlete that plays hard. A new era of Denver Broncos tight ends has begun. Elway wipes his forehead, takes a deep breath, and makes the call.
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