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What should we expect from Noah Fant in 2020?

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Noah Fant had a decent season as a rookie. Using the average improvement from recent rookie to second year TEs let’s see if we can predict what he might do in 2020.


Noah Fant finished his rookie campaign with 40 catches for 562 yards and three touchdowns. Among rookie tight ends since the merger his 40 catches is tied for 31st, his receiving yards are 15th and his touchdowns don’t even put him in the top 50.

There have been 56 rookie TEs in the past 30 NFL seasons to catch 30 or more passes. Of those 56, only 39 had 30 or more catches in their second season. This was somewhat surprising. I guess there have been many rookie TEs who either lost their jobs in their second season or who were injured and did not produce in their second year. Four of those 59 were in 2019 - Noah Fant (40 catches), Irv Smith Jr. (36 catches), T.J. Hockenson (32 catches) and Kaden Smith (31 catches). I would expect all four to have at least 30 catches in 2020 (assuming we have a 16 game regular season).

Interestingly enough, in 2018 both Chris Herndon (39 catches) and Ian Thomas (36 catches) surpassed the 30 catch mark as rookies, but neither was able to repeat the feat in 2019. Herndon was hurt most of the year and Thomas only had 16 catches as Greg Olsen (52 catches) was able to stay healthy for most of the year and was the main receiving TE for the Panthers. Olsen was limited to 9 games and 27 catches in 2018.

Here is a look at what those 39 “recent” tight ends did as rookies, as second year players and how much they improved (or regressed) in the second year relative to their rookie season. Eric Green and Jim Price played long enough ago (1990) that target data was not kept yet.

Player Year Tm TGT yr 1 REC yr1 YDS yr1 TD yr1 TGT yr2 Rec yr2 Yds yr2 TD yr2 TGT %D Rec %D Yds %D TD %D
Jimmy Graham 2010 NOR 44 31 356 5 149 99 1310 11 239% 219% 268% 120%
Jason Witten 2003 DAL 54 35 347 1 122 87 980 6 126% 149% 182% 500%
George Kittle 2017 SFO 63 43 515 2 136 88 1377 5 116% 105% 167% 150%
Rob Gronkowski 2010 NWE 59 42 546 10 124 90 1327 17 110% 114% 143% 70%
Brandon Pettigrew 2009 DET 54 30 346 2 111 71 722 4 106% 137% 109% 100%
Dallas Goedert 2018 PHI 44 33 334 4 87 58 607 5 98% 76% 82% 25%
Mark Andrews 2018 BAL 50 34 552 3 98 64 852 10 96% 88% 54% 233%
Tony Gonzalez 1997 KAN 54 33 368 2 102 59 621 2 89% 79% 69% 0%
Owen Daniels 2006 HOU 51 34 352 5 94 63 768 3 84% 85% 118% -40%
Aaron Hernandez 2010 NWE 64 45 563 6 113 79 910 7 77% 76% 62% 17%
Mychal Rivera 2013 OAK 60 38 407 4 99 58 534 4 65% 53% 31% 0%
Chris Cooley 2004 WAS 63 37 314 6 103 71 774 7 63% 92% 146% 17%
Freddie Jones 1997 SDG 69 41 505 2 111 57 602 3 61% 39% 19% 50%
Zach Ertz 2013 PHI 57 36 469 4 89 58 702 3 56% 61% 50% -25%
Ben Troupe 2004 TEN 54 33 329 1 80 55 530 4 48% 67% 61% 300%
David Njoku 2017 CLE 60 32 386 4 88 56 639 4 47% 75% 66% 0%
Doug Jolley 2002 OAK 37 32 409 2 54 31 250 1 46% -3% -39% -50%
Rickey Dudley 1996 OAK 70 34 386 4 91 48 787 7 30% 41% 104% 75%
Zach Miller 2007 OAK 68 44 444 3 86 56 778 1 26% 27% 75% -67%
Greg Olsen 2007 CHI 66 39 391 2 82 54 574 5 24% 38% 47% 150%
Randy McMichael 2002 MIA 68 39 485 4 83 49 598 2 22% 26% 23% -50%
Pete Mitchell 1995 JAX 64 41 527 2 77 52 575 1 20% 27% 9% -50%
Hunter Henry 2016 SDG 53 36 478 8 62 45 579 4 17% 25% 21% -50%
Will Tye 2015 NYG 62 42 464 3 70 48 395 1 13% 14% -15% -67%
Jermaine Gresham 2010 CIN 83 52 471 4 92 56 596 6 11% 8% 27% 50%
Jordan Reed 2013 WAS 59 45 499 3 65 50 465 0 10% 11% -7% -100%
Ken Dilger 1995 IND 55 42 635 4 60 42 503 4 9% 0% -21% 0%
Heath Miller 2005 PIT 52 39 459 6 55 34 393 5 6% -13% -14% -17%
Dustin Keller 2008 NYJ 78 48 535 3 82 45 522 2 5% -6% -2% -33%
John Carlson 2008 SEA 80 55 627 5 83 51 574 7 4% -7% -8% 40%
Eric Johnson 2001 SFO 64 40 362 3 65 36 321 0 2% -10% -11% -100%
Tony McGee 1993 CIN 70 44 525 0 70 40 492 1 0% -9% -6%
Bubba Franks 2000 GNB 55 34 363 1 49 36 322 9 -11% 6% -11% 800%
Alex Smith 2005 TAM 61 41 367 2 53 35 250 3 -13% -15% -32% 50%
Tony Moeaki 2010 KAN 73 47 556 3 56 33 453 1 -23% -30% -19% -67%
Evan Engram 2017 NYG 115 64 722 6 64 45 577 3 -44% -30% -20% -50%
Jeremy Shockey 2002 NYG 128 74 894 2 70 48 535 2 -45% -35% -40% 0%
Eric Green 1990 PIT 34 387 7 41 582 6 21% 50% -14%
Jim Price 1991 RAM 35 410 2 57 34 324 2 -3% -21% 0%

Five guys made huge jumps from year one to year two: Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, George Kittle, Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Pettigrew. Four of those five guys could be in the HoF some day. Witten and Gronk definitely will. Graham has an outside shot and Kittle has plenty of career to left to determine that. Pettigrew was a first round pick of the Lions in 2009 who had some nice seasons before his career fell apart in his sixth year in the league.

Averaging the year over year change we find that for these 39 guys in their second year they averaged:

  • 43 percent more targets
  • 41 percent more catches
  • 44 percent more yards
  • 52 percent more receiving touchdowns

Applying that to what Fant did in 2019 we find that if he follows the trend, he should have:

  • 94 targets
  • 56 catches
  • 809 yards
  • 5 TDs

Those numbers are very similar to what former Bronco, Owen Daniels, did in his second year in the league.

Does that sound reasonable to you? Do you think that there will be enough targets for him to get that many with Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler and our running backs all wanting to the ball in the passing game? Keep in mind that only 6 TEs had 94 or more targets in 2019: Travis Kelce (136), Zach Ertz (135), Darren Waller (117), George Kittle (107), Mark Andrews (98) and Austin Hooper (97). It should be noted that none of those guys was drafted in the first round. They were taken in the third, second, sixth, fifth, third and third rounds respectively.

Poll

If you had to bet the over or the under on Noah Fant in 2020, which do you think would be the safest bet?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    over 94 targets
    (15 votes)
  • 25%
    under 94 targets
    (106 votes)
  • 18%
    over 56 catches
    (78 votes)
  • 7%
    under 56 catches
    (30 votes)
  • 6%
    over 809 rec yards
    (27 votes)
  • 4%
    under 809 rec yards
    (19 votes)
  • 31%
    over 5 rec TDs
    (131 votes)
  • 2%
    under 5 rec TDs
    (12 votes)
418 votes total Vote Now