Which Iowa Tight End Has More Promise?

03/16/2019

Last year the Iowa Hawkeyes had shelled out yet another above average season for their football program finishing 9-4. Winning themselves another bowl game defeating the Mississippi State Bulldogs by a close five points in the Outback Bowl to close out the season. A good reason behind their success was having the two special athletes, Noah Fant and TJ Hockenson, in an offensive system that was already considered friendly to their inside attacking options. These two took that system and utilized it with their talent and the tight end duo made waves all year on the highlight reel.

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Noah Fant finished with a very productive junior year racking up over five hundred yards for thirty nine receptions, while scoring seven touchdowns in the process. Statistically speaking, Noah Fant ran into much more success on the scoreboard in his previous sophomore year with eleven touchdowns despite having less receptions than this past year. But that's typically what happens when a tight end is seen as more reliant in red zone situations, few targets down the field but is looked to for the quick touchdown where breathing room becomes slim in such a small part of the field. Other than the drop in his reception to touchdown ratio, Fant was still a strong standout player for their offense and was quite consistent all year. 

For anyone thinking Fant's numbers were poor compared to his season before, in his defense he had to at least share some of the highlights with Iowa's other tight end Hockenson who put in a breakout sophomore season of his own. The young star matched his teammate with seven touchdowns for the year as well, (one of them being a rushing TD). Once Hockenson proved himself reliable early in the season his numbers boosted in an irrational fashion. He finished the season with forty nine receptions and 760 yards! Scary high stat for a college tight end. 

For a while in early mock drafts, Fant was a man amongst boys when it came to the tight end position for this upcoming NFL draft. Easily expected to be the first tight end selected. That is until Hockenson then declared for the draft as well. Now we have ourselves a debate! Who will be picked first? Who will be better? NFL general managers needing a tight end are asking themselves these same questions. Living in Iowa you were bound to hear about at least one of these two players every Saturday night. And now these two Iowa boys are predicted in early rounds in mock drafts across the nation. It's truly remarkable what the school has done for these two considering how often Hawkeye talent has gone overlooked and underrated. 

I think once these two get to the NFL they will both be successful, but have very different ways of getting there. I currently think Fant is better than Hockenson overall, having more experience on the field I am confident he is more NFL ready mentally and physically. I think Fant will be making plays as soon as he gets to the league. He is the better tight end all around. 

Now as for Hockenson I see two very different roads for him. Because right now he is coming off his breakout season as a sophomore and he thinks he is ready to take on the NFL after his first experience in being a great football player. A lot of young college players do this when they have a standout sophomore year, maintaining all the hype into the draft, getting drafted high and then that's when things get delicate. If you don't seem promising then any NFL team will not hesitate to cut or trade you and that's when your value to the league gets diminished by good lengths. That could be the likely case for Hockenson, but hopefully not. Because I see his claim to fame being very similar to another Iowa tight end, George Kittle. It will take time for Hockenson to be mentally ready and to physically match the competition in the big leagues. Hopefully his team that drafts him keeps him long enough to transition to their offensive schemes, and once that happens then he will make plays every week like he did for Iowa.

 My overall summary on the two players? Fant will be making plays sooner than Hockenson due to being more pro ready. But I see Hockenson having a much higher ceiling and could eventually be considered "Franchise". Either way you're drafting a quality tight end.

-Isaac Lingelbach