Regardless if TJ Hockenson or Noah Fant hears his name called by Roger Goodell first in this year’s NFL Draft, it’s going to be a memorable one for the former Iowa tight ends, as well as the entire Hawkeyes program.
“Just being part of that, being one of the first duo to do that, I think that’d be really special,” Hockenson said at the NFL Scouting Combine in March.
The duo has a chance to be the first tight ends from the same school to go in the opening round. If that doesn’t happen, they’re still locks to be drafted in the first three rounds — something two tight ends from the same school haven’t done before either.
“Obviously I want both of us, me and TJ, to both go in the first round,” said Fant at the NFL Scouting Combine in March. “Both of us helped each other a lot, you know, helped us get better in different areas. It’s one of those things where you push each other to be better and it’s been a good experience.”
Hockenson has emerged as the top overall tight end in this year’s draft class.
“Being a versatile tight end is obviously special, especially now. Being able to be flexed out. Being able to be in a three-point. Being able to do all of it is something that, like I said, I pride myself to be able to do,” Hockenson said.
CBS Sports draft writer Chris Trapasso said Hockenson’s rise is because of his old-school physicality.
“The blocking matters and I think that’s why there’s so much buzz about Hockenson because you turn on his film and you see him bulldozing linebackers at the second level,” Trapasso said. “You don’t really see that too often anymore with tight ends.”
Fant, on the other hand, is a new-school tight end.
“He has the athletic measurables in terms of the long frame, the size, the catch radius at the point of attack,” said ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen. “He can work underneath the coverage or take you down the field.”
That means creating mismatches, something most NFL coaches make a priority every week in the fall.
“Put a corner out there, he might be too small. Put a strong safety, he might be too slow. Put a linebacker, he might be too slow,” Fant said. “So I mean it’s one of those things where you get the right matchup, it could be pretty special.”
And special is exactly what ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen said both players could be if they’re drafted into the right system.
“It all depends on who my head coach is, who my position coach is and what we’re game planning on Sundays, because it can bring different things to your offense. I think they both have a realistic possibility of being first-round picks,” Bowen said.
Most draft experts have Hockenson as a top-20 pick entering Thursday’s draft. Those same experts are projecting Fant anywhere from the middle of round one to early in the second round on Friday.