Noah Fant was selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft based on raw athleticism and talent that could be a difference-maker at a burgeoning position in the Broncos offense. The tight end showed flashes in three seasons in Denver, but it never coalesced into consistent, Pro Bowl-level play.
During his time in the Mile High City, Fant never breached the 700-yard mark. Moreover, his yards per reception steadily declined during his three seasons. After averaging 14.1 yards per catch on 40 receptions as a rookie, that figure dipped to 10.9 on 62 catches in 2020 and 9.9 on 68 in 2021.
As part of the trade that brought Russell Wilson to the Broncos, Fant now heads to Seattle. He told 104.3 The Fan in Denver this week that he became frustrated with how he was used in Pat Shurmur's offense with the Broncos. In Fant's view, he's a field-stretching weapon but was primarily utilized as an outlet with run-after-catch ability.
"I feel like when I came into the league, that's what I was drafted to do, right?" he said of making explosive plays. "Get down the field, make those explosive plays, and kind of be that pass catching tight end. And over my time in Denver, I felt like that narrative kind of got muddled down a little bit. It was more of a focus of me catching flat balls or whatever it may be, and then trying to be a shifty guy and elusive guy and try to break as many tackles possible to get my yards. I view myself as a downfield threat, getting open space, then I can make things happen. It was a little frustrating being used in the short field."
The comments underscore the restraints put on the offense by Shurmur and the inconsistent quarterback play during the TE's three seasons in Denver. Unfortunately for Fant, he won't be around for the Russell Wilson-Nathaniel Hackett era.
Fant noted that he found out about his trade to Seattle from TV reports. The 24-year-old wishes he'd have found out in a more direct fashion.
"Honestly, like from my perspective, I'm not going to say I've been the perfect prospect drafted in Denver, but I felt like I've done some pretty good things in Denver and had some really good moments," he said. "But you know, it's a part of the business and I think that's kind of what I learned the most from this whole experience. I kind of like, you know, bled blue and orange a little bit and then when it kind of comes down to it, which is totally understandable, they had a chance at Russell Wilson. But it's kind of anybody's expendable so it just was one of those things."
Fant now heads to Seattle, where the QB situation remains unsettled. Former Denver teammate Drew Lock remains the leader for the starting job, but that could change in the coming weeks.
After the Broncos failed to use Fant as a field-stretching weapon, we'll see if things change with his move to Seattle. The Seahawks haven't had a tight end average more than 11 yards per catch since Jimmy Graham in 2016 (14.2) with Wilson under center. Now that they have a new quarterback, will the offense's use of the TE drastically change in Pete Carroll's new vision?