ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos just added a versatile, explosive piece to their offense.
Denver selected tight end Noah Fant with the 20th-overall pick of Thursday night’s NFL Draft — and in the process, the team gained a player who could present mismatch problems for opposing defenses.
"Noah Fant is an incredibly gifted and athletic tight end," President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway tweeted. "He’s got great speed and he can really stretch the field. We’re very fortunate to get him at 20."
The 6-foot-5, 241-pound Iowa product was the second tight end off the board behind only Iowa's T.J. Hockenson. Fant and Hockenson become the first pair of tight end teammates to be drafted in the first round of an NFL Draft.
"I'm OK with [being the second tight end taken]," Fant said Thursday night, "Going into this draft, I wanted to go to the team that fit me, the team that wanted me, the team that I fit into their scheme. The Denver Broncos is 100 percent that team. I'm super excited and I couldn't have asked for a better team to pick me. I'm 100 percent OK with that. I still have full belief that I'm one of the best tight ends and hopefully look to produce like that on the field for the Denver Broncos."
The Broncos selected Fant at No. 20 after trading back with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers moved up to the 10th-overall pick in exchange for the 20th-overall and 52nd-overall picks. Pittsburgh will also send a 2020 third-round pick to the Broncos.
During his three seasons at Iowa, Fant recorded 78 receptions for 1,083 yards and his 19 touchdowns are the most ever by an Iowa tight end. In his final year in Iowa City, Fant caught a career-high 39 passes for 519 yards and seven touchdowns as he split time with Hockenson. He also earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the league's coaches.
Though Hockenson was selected earlier in Thursday's first round, Fant recorded more nine more touchdowns than his teammate over the last two seasons.
Fant is the latest in a long line of Hawkeye tight ends to make it to the NFL. Ten Iowa tight ends have played in the NFL since 2000, per the Associated Press. Fant and Hockenson will join that group soon.
Elway hinted at the NFL Combine that the Broncos could target a tight end in the draft.
“We’ve been trying to address that [position] every year,” Elway said on March 1. “That’s a tough position now, especially when you’re talking about an in-line guy that is a blocker but can also be a good pass receiver. We don’t have a lot of in-line guys coming out of college like we used to because of what they’re doing in college ball opening things up and there’s more receivers coming out of college. It’s much more difficult finding the in-line tight ends than it’s ever been.”
Fant joins Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt, Troy Fumagalli and Temarrick Hemingway in the Broncos’ tight end room.
The Broncos have now selected in the 20th-overall position in two of the last three seasons. Denver selected tackle Garett Bolles at No. 20 during the 2017 NFL Draft.