Former NFL tight end and Super Bowl champion Dallas Clark and Denver Broncos rookie tight end Noah Fant have a few things in common. Both were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft (Clark was 24th overall pick in 2003) and both are Iowa Hawkeyes alumni.
Both men also played with decorated quarterbacks as Clark caught passes from Super Bowl XLI MVP Peyton Manning, and Fant is playing with Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco.
“He looks like a video game tight end. If you could create your tight end on Madden that’s who he comes out looking like. I think his receiving ability definitely out shined his blocking ability. If you talk to defensive ends from the Iowa team and ask them who do you hate going against? A majority of them would say Noah. I think he’s a dog. He’s strong, athletic, and can finish.”
While his blocking has gained praise, his receiving has been inconsistent. Fant started slow in the beginning of training camp with some dropped passes and unfinished routes. He appears to be cleaning up some of the mental mistakes, but has yet to have a breakout moment in camp.
Brandon Stokley shared some of his camp observations,
“He’s been inconsistent with his hands, and had some drops. We really haven’t seen the big plays I’ve been waiting to see from him,” Stokley said. “When your’e 6’5 250 pounds, and you run a 4.5 40, I’m waiting to see him stretch the football field and start making plays.”
Clark explained it took a couple of years for him to understand the complexity of an NFL offense. He also shared that getting in rhythm with Joe Flacco will take time, and cannot be forced.
The most important aspect during his rookie transition is practice. Fant must take advantage of every rep to work and improve. Early in camp I noticed some lack of conditioning and effort on plays.
Clark had an opportunity to observe his fellow Hawkeye last season and said,
“I saw him tap himself out during a game. That bothers me. You have a chance to play. A coach isn’t taking you out, your’e taking yourself out. Your’e taking a chance away from your team, to drink water. I talked to him about it. And I think he responded well to it. I did address that with him. They should have zero reason to take him off the field. He’s got the ability to do all of this.”
Surely there are growing pains for rookies in the NFL. Fant has all of the tools necessary to be a dynamic playmaker for the Broncos.
But, before that happens he needs to embrace the process of getting there.