Tight ends and wide receivers are going through on-field workouts on Saturday, and the 40-yard dash left people drooling over Iowa tight end Noah Fant. He ran a 4.51 40, and that immediately drew comparisons to former Iowa tight end George Kittle. NFL Network overlaid Fant’s 40 with that of Kittle and fellow Pro Bowler Zach Ertz, as well as Fant’s fellow Iowa tight end prospect T.J. Hockenson.
Hockenson is a projected first round pick, and has seen his stock rising in the media this offseason. In pre-Combine rankings, Mel Kiper had him at No. 6 overall and Matt Miller had him at No. 10 overall. Both Kiper and Miller had Fant as their third-ranked tight end behind Hockenson and Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. Miller ranked him No. 31 overall, just behind 30th-ranked Smith.
Hockenson could very well end up a top 15 pick if his momentum continues, but could we see three tight ends go in the first round between him, Smith, and Fant? The 49ers could use another playmaker, and adding a second pass-catching tight end is one way to approach it. And why not pair George Kittle with a fellow Hawkeye?
Iowa folks think Fant still has to show improved skill catching the ball, but I imagine some teams will see that 40 time and be willing to project improved catching skills as he develops in the NFL. As with any prospect, it only takes one team falling in love to have him drafted higher than previously expected. We’re seeing it with Kyler Murray, and we could very well see it with Fant.
Will we see the 49ers make a play for a pass-catching tight end this year, or do they stick with Celek as more of a blocker in that second spot? Celek can make plays in the passing game, but finished the season with only five catches on eight targets. Kittle’s dominant season was part of the reason, but we are likely never going to see consistently significant receiving contributions from Celek. The team could look to replace him with more of a playmaker, or could stick with him while they beef up the wide receiver corps instead.