Picking Iowa tight end Noah Fant at No. 20 was “great value,” according to Broncos GM John Elway, who traded down from the No. 10 pick with Pittsburgh in order to get another second-round pick today and a third-rounder in 2020.
But for Fant, it was the stars “aligning.”
“It was a super special moment for me. I was very emotional,” Fant said about getting the call from Elway and talking to all the coaches - just before going to hug his mom. “It was like God wanted me to be in Denver. I wanted to be in Denver. The stars aligned in a perfect way. I was just super emotional about that and super happy.”
Even before the draft, Fant had been thinking about Denver as a perfect landing spot. Having current 49ers tight end and also former Hawkeye George Kittle as a mentor will make for a nice transition since Kittle worked some with Rich Scangarello in San Francisco last year - as Elway pointed out after the choice.
“I think obviously with the success that Kittle had in San Francisco with Rich being out there last year, speed tight ends can be very effective in his offense,” Elway said. “[Fant] was a good fit for us.”
Fant has no delusions that despite being the Broncos’ first-round pick, he’ll have to earn his way into a starting spot. But he’s OK with that.
“I know that coming in as a tight end, I’m going to have to work for my role,” the former Hawkeye said. “I’m going to have to play special teams, I’m going to have to do all that and do what the coaches ask me. It’s coming in as a rookie and you’re starting all over. I know that they have great tight ends there and we have to put the work in. I’m definitely looking forward to that, and I know nothing’s going to be given to me.”
Although one of the first things that stood out to head coach Vic Fangio about Fant was his speed (a 4.5 40), it’s some other qualities the defensive-minded coach really likes.
“We don’t feel that he’s just a ‘move’ tight end or an off-the-ball tight end,” Fangio said, noting that he is a competitive blocker. “He can play on the line of scrimmage also. That was important to us also.”
Fant believes part of what he can bring to the table is using his speed to get separation - something Broncos’ tight ends have not had much success doing.
“I think I do a good job with my speed and keeping the defender off me. I think that is a big part in stretching the seam and stretching vertically, and I feel like I can do that very well,” Fant said. “I am able to use my athleticism in that also. So, I’m not trying to be too ‘braggy’, but obviously, I was able to put on some good numbers at the combine, so yeah.”
But he’s also planning to use that athleticism to be the “eraser” for his new quarterback - the guy that can bail out Joe Flacco if he has no other options down the field.
“It means that if the quarterback misses any type of read or is struggling or anything and needs to bail out, he gets it to the tight end,” Fant said. “That’s where I come into the factor, trying to be a dynamic tight end where maybe those mistakes can turn into touchdowns.”
The new Bronco is also looking forward to working with Flacco.
Actually, he’s “super stoked.”
“Joe Flacco has been a Super Bowl quarterback. He’s a legend,” Fant added.” I’m super stoked to get in there and get to work.”
And the fact that Fant’s fellow teammate and also tight end T.J. Hockenson went before him in the draft means absolutely nothing to him. He got the team that wanted him.
“I wanted to go to the team that picked me, the team that wanted me, the team that I fit to their scheme, and the Denver Broncos is 100 percent that team,” Fant said. “I’m super excited, and I couldn’t have asked for a better team to pick me. I’m 100 percent OK with that. I still have full belief that I’m one of the best tight ends, and hopefully look to produce like that on the field for the Denver Broncos.”