Noah Fant was one of the most buzzed-about athletes heading into the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Fant did not disappoint Saturday.
The former Iowa star was first among a talented crop of tight ends in speed and leaping ability. But Fant also showed surprising power. For someone trying to prove himself worthy of a first-round selection in next month's NFL Draft, it was the perfect showing.
Fant ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash. His vertical leap was 39.5 inches. His broad jump was 10 feet, 7 inches. And he even bench-pressed 225 pounds 20 times to answer one of the questions about him.
At 6-foot-4, 249 pounds, Fant showed speed and leaping ability more common among top wide receivers.
T.J. Hockenson, another former Iowa tight end who came to Indianapolis with a more established reputation than Fant, had less to prove Saturday. Still, Hockenson was second among tight ends with a 37.5-inch vertical jump and 10 feet, 3 inches in the broad jump.
Hockenson, at 6-5, 251 pounds, is considered the pre-eminent blocker among the tight ends in the draft. That, combined with his receiving skills, is why most prognosticators think he'll be the first tight end chosen. He ran a 4.7-second 40 and managed 17 repetitions on the bench press. Those are solid numbers and should not hurt him come draft day.
It's possible that three tight ends are taken in the first round this year. Alabama's Irv Smith would be the other. No school has ever had two tight ends taken in the first round in the same year. The Hawkeyes may be making history soon.
Gil Brandt, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who was in charge of personnel for the Dallas Cowboys for three successful decades, did the research and found that the 16 tight ends taken in the first round of the draft since 2003 had these average numbers at the Combine: 4.61 seconds in the 40 and a vertical of 35-6. One more: A 4.34-second showing in the 20-yard short shuttle, which Brandt sees as a third important indicator for tight end success.
Fant ran a 4.22. Hockenson topped him with a 4.18.
Hockenson and Fant leave Indianapolis as the top two-rated tight ends in the draft.
It was a splendid Saturday indeed for Iowa's two tight ends. The Hawkeyes will have their Pro Day on March 25.