Summary: After hauling in 28 passes for 486 yards with 10 touchdowns in 2017, Fant entered the 2018 season with more hype, although it was teammate T.J. Hockenson who ended up as the No. 1 tight end prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft. Fant put together a solid junior year with 39 receptions for 519 yards and seven touchdowns, but Hockenson eclipsed him while they split targets for the Hawkeyes. Hockenson might be the more well-rounded player, Fant could end up having the more productive pro career because he is an ultra-fast tight end who is a receiving weapon for the passing-driven NFL.
The best trait about Fant is his speed. He is a very fast tight end who can cause problems for defenses with his ability to run away from coverage and tacklers. Fant is able to bolt down the seam and can generate separation from coverage, plus his size allows him to make receptions over defensive backs. Fant is a quality route runner and tracks the ball well downfield. He is adept at finding the soft spot in zone coverage and presenting a good target for his quarterback. With his speed and ability to get open, Fant should produce some good receiving numbers during his NFL career.
Fant is a true receiving tight end who could produce big numbers with his receiving skills as a pro. He is too fast for linebackers, and safeties can also struggle with his speed. In the open field, Fant has a second gear to run away from defenders and rip off long gains while being a scoring threat. Team evaluators say Fant is not a natural hands catcher of the football, and that could be seen at the combine when he had some drops in the field drills. Becoming more reliable with his hands is the biggest point of improvement for Fant.
As a blocker, Fant needs work for the NFL. His technique and strength could use improvement for battling pro defenders. He probably will never be a force in the ground game, but he could get better by giving more of an effort and blocking with more attitude.
Aside from his blocking, Fant has other things to improve. Team sources say that Fant has off-the-field issues, and they have concerns about his personal makeup. They don't sound like major issues, but they feel he has problems with maturity and how he conducts himself.
Some in the media have projected Fant as a mid- to late first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, but in speaking to scouts, the character issues have them placing Fant lower. In speaking to some team sources, they have Fant graded in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Jimmy Graham. Fant's game reminds me of Jimmy Graham's. Both are fast tight ends who are mismatch receiving weapons but have limitations as blockers. In the NFL, I don't believe Fant will be as good as Graham was in his prime with the Saints, but Fant's style of play is similar to Graham and I think Fant could have a solid career.
NFL Matches: Jacksonville, Detroit, Denver, Seattle, Houston, Oakland, Los Angeles Chargers, New England
In the 2019 NFL Draft, there are a number of teams that could consider drafting Fant. If he sneaks into the first round, perhaps the highest he could hope to do it would be with the Seahawks. Seattle could use a tight end, so Fant could get consideration. He would be a mismatch weapon for Russell Wilson and bring a big target who the Seahawks need.
Oakland could be looking for a long-term starter at tight end, but Fant's makeup issues probably does not make him a fit for Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden. Fant could be more of a candidate in the second round for the Raiders.
Staying in the AFC West, the Chargers could target Fant. He could form a talented young trio with Hunter Henry and Sean Culkin.
New England is facing life after Rob Gronkowski, so Fant could be viewed as the team's future starting tight end to replace him. Fant could get consideration late in the first round or with one of the Patriots' pair of second-round picks.
The Jaguars could use a long-term starting tight end after letting Austin Seferian-Jenkins go. Fant would provide a weapon for Nick Foles and help Jacksonville exploit safeties coming up to stop Leonard Fournette. Fant could make sense for the Jaguars in the second round if the character issues aren't too much for them.
Fant could be in play for Detroit or Denver early in the second round as both need a receiving tight end. The Lions squandered the talented Eric Ebron and need to upgrade the tight end position. Joe Flacco could use a mismatch receiving tight end like Fant, who makes a lot of sense for the Broncos in Round 2.
The Texans could give some consideration to Fant, but Brian Gaine drafted two tight ends last year. I'm not sure he's ready to admit that third-round pick Jordan Akins was a mistake.