INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Going into the NFL combine, it was probably a safe bet that an Iowa tight end would end up the first tight end selected in April’s draft.
After Saturday’s drills, you probably won’t find anyone taking that bet.
Noah Fant woke everyone up with a 4.50-second 40-yard dash. T.J. Hockenson followed up with a 4.70. It was like that all day for the former Hawkeyes.
When the running and jumping was finished, Fant led all tight ends in the 40, the vertical jump (39 1/2 inches) and the broad jump (10 feet, five inches).
Hockenson’s 4.70 was seventh among tight ends. He finished No. 2 to Fant in the vertical (37 1/2 inches) and the broad jump (10-2).
They also went 1-2 in the 3-cone drill, with Fant clocking 6.81 seconds; Hockenson at 7.02.
Iowa tight ends were the buzz of the combine Saturday.
Next Gen Stats, an uber NFL analytics website, gave Fant an overall draft score of 88 (a composite of size, combine performance and production in college), second only to Hockenson’s 95.
NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah called Hockenson the “safest” pick in the draft.
“He’s going to be a very valuable player with a very high floor as well as a high ceiling for me,” Jeremiah said.
“And then Fant is more athletic version,” Jeremiah said. “He’s more explosive. He’s functional in the run game. He’s OK. You can get by with him there no problem. He’s not deficient, but he’s not the killer that Hockenson is. That would be the difference there.”
Jeremiah ranks Fant as the No. 23 prospect in the draft, his second-highest rated TE behind Hockenson, who Jeremiah has at No. 5.
“I think Hockenson has a little bit more natural hands,” Jeremiah said. “With Fant, he’s got a little bit of a habit, he’s jumping for balls that are on his body. Sometimes that shows you a guy doesn’t have total confidence there in his hands.
“That would be a little bit of a difference there, but I think these guys would be first-round picks, day-one starters and big-time impact guys.”
Fant probably will be projected higher than the 20s after his performance. He measured at 6-4, 249; Hockenson at 6-5, 251.
Everyone wants to be the first player picked at their position. According to spotrac.com (which tracks NFL salaries), the signing bonus projection at No. 5 this year is more than $19 million. At No. 23, the number is $6.8 million.
That’s the competition within the competition at the combine, where everything is competitive.
Fant and Hockenson could become the first pair of tight ends from the same school to be drafted in the first round in the modern era of football.
No, Fant and Hockenson don’t have a personal bet on who goes first.
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“Obviously, it would be a special thing,” Fant said. “More than anything, I’m worried about being the first tight end taken. That’s a big accomplishment. Obviously, I want both me and T.J. to go in the first round, he’s a great player and it’s going to be fun to compete out here on the field.”
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