NFL Scouting Combine

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Iowa tight ends T.J. Hockenson & Noah Fant could both go in first round

INDIANAPOLIS – T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant are two of the top tight end prospects here at the NFL Scouting Combine. They also happen to be former teammates at Iowa this past season.

Hockenson and Fant are trying to be the first tight ends from the same school to both be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft in the modern era.

With that naturally comes a bit of a friendly competition as well.

“More than anything, I’m worried about being the first tight end taken,” Fant said Friday at the Combine. “Obviously, I want both me and T.J. to go in the first round, he’s a great player, and it’s going to be fun to compete out here on the field.

“We haven’t bet on it, but it’s a friendly competition. Always has been and always will be. That’s why we come out here. We come out here to compete.”

View photos of the Detroit Lions at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine.

It’s Hockenson who most draft analysts expect to be the first tight end off the board. Some mock drafts have even linked him to the Detroit Lions at No. 8.

“He’s the safest player in the draft,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said earlier this week of Hockenson, the Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end.

Hockenson (6-4, 251) is not only one of the most explosive pass catchers among a talented tight end class this year, but he’s also the best in-line blocker. He’s actually dominant in that regard, and it could make him attractive to a team like Detroit, who values both traits in their tight ends.

Even sharing snaps with Fant this past season, Hockenson led the Hawkeyes with 49 catches for 760 yards (15.5 average) and six touchdowns this past season.

“I mean that’s something special,” Hockenson said of he and Fant potentially being first-round picks together. “Coming from the University of Iowa and just knowing how hard everyone works there … just being one of the first duos to do that would be really special.”

View photos of the prospects that met the media on Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Combine.

Fant (6-4, 249) caught 39 passes for 519 yards (13.3) and seven touchdowns this past season. He’s an explosive athlete, and will test well here at the Combine. But to overtake Hockenson as the first tight end off the board, he’ll have to prove he can be a good blocker, something he said he’s putting a lot of work into.

This is a terrific tight end class, led by Hockenson, Fant and Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. – another potential first-round pick.

“I think both these guys would be first-round picks, day-one starters and big-time impact guys,” Jeremiah said of Hockenson and Fant.

Lions general manager Bob Quinn hasn’t been shy about the fact that he’s looking to upgrade the tight end position this offseason. He said at the Combine Wednesday he hasn’t ruled out the potential of that being with the No. 8 pick.

The good thing about the Lions needing a tight end this year is that this might be the deepest and most talented draft class at the position in a decade.

Hockenson and Fant are expected to hear their names early on come draft day. This week in Indy, and the coming two months with Pro Days and team visits, will decide if that’s in the first round for the first time for two tight end teammates.

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