T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant seek to make history

T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant are set to become the first tight-end teammates to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in history.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s Noah Fant and TJ Hockenson celebrate a touchdown during a football game between Iowa and Wisconsin on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. The Badgers defeated the Hawkeyes, 28-17.

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant will try to make history as they take the stage at First and Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee, for the NFL Draft.

The tandem of Hawkeyes could very well become the first pair of tight ends from the same school in history to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft.

“It’s been cool; he does his thing, and I do mine, and it pushes each other,” Hockenson said. “It’s definitely a cool thing just being two tight ends from the same university, going through the same workouts.”

While both players are widely regarded as the two best tight ends in the draft, they bring different games to the table.

Hockenson serves as a do-it-all pass-catcher and projects as one of the best blockers available, while Fant is an athletic monster who can be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.

Both finished first and second in numerous workouts at the NFL Combine, including the vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone drill, and 60-yard shuttle. Fant also led the way in the 40, posting a time of 4.50.

NFL.com’s Rhett Lewis has Hockenson going No. 7 to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Fant No. 10 to the Denver Broncos, while Charles Davis put Hockenson at No. 9 to the Buffalo Bills and Fant at No. 12 to the Green Bay Packers.

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“It’s always been competition, and we both want the best for each other,” Fant said. “Every time we step on the field, we’re trying to prove who’s the best. It’s all been fun, though, and it’s all been a good time and friendly competition.”

Both will likely be heralded as good picks by whichever teams select them. While Hockenson might be the better tight end overall, a lot of it is personal preference.

Fant excels in pass-heavy offenses. He has shown in his time at Iowa that he’s too fast for a linebacker to cover but too big for a defensive back. That versatility translated to a first-team All-Big Ten honor from the Big Ten’s coaches and 19 career touchdowns, which is the most by a Hawkeye tight end and the third-most among any Big Ten tight ends.

“Fant is at his best in open space and on the move as his catch-focus appears to wane when coverage crowds him or he hears footsteps,” NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein wrote. “He needs to get stronger and more competitive at the point of attack to help a running game, but if that never happens, his ability to uncover and hit big plays will still make him a coveted prize for teams ready to add a move tight end as their new matchup toy.”

Hockenson, on the other hand, fits well in any scheme. His blocking ability certainly grew in his time in the Black and Gold, but his playmaking ability was just as impressive.

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He caught 49 passes for 760 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2018, leading him to the Mackey Award, given to the best tight end in college football.

“He should continue to fill out his athletic frame, but he’s already a sound in-line blocker with the toughness to sustain and finish,” Zierlein wrote. “His above-average athleticism and separation burst will help him win against linebackers, while his body control and hands give him an advantage over safeties.”

No matter who gets taken first, history will likely be made tonight in Nashville, and it all started in Iowa City.

“We’ve definitely pushed each other, and in the process, made each other better from that relationship,” Fant said.

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler: Hockenson, first round; Fant, first-second round

NFL.com: both first round

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