It’s amazing how quickly things can change. A week ago, I wrote the first two installments of our “Pick or Pass” series — a seven week series that will take us up to the week of the draft — and began with two potential wide receiver targets in DK Metcalf and Marquise Brown.
And then, almost before they were published, the Raiders had gone from a team with zero offensive weapons outside to a team stocked full of weapons. First, they traded for arguably the league’s best receiver — Antonio Brown — and then went out and got arguably the best free agent receiver of the offseason — Tyrell Williams. They capped it all off by adding speedster JJ Nelson, meaning it’s entirely possible that their entire wide receiver core will be new this fall.
So, while I said I’d be interested in Marquise Brown last week, it’s safe to say that things have changed. Now the thought of using one of those four top-35 picks on a receiver seems ludicrous. Which brings us to our next prospect — another offensive weapon — in Noah Fant.
Bench Press: 20 reps
Vertical jump: 39.5″
Broad jump: 127″
College stats: 30 games, 78 catches, 1,083 yards and 19 TD
As I look over Fant’s measurables, it’s pretty astonishing how similarly he compares to DK Metcalf — albeit at an entirely different position. While Fant is an inch taller and 30 pounds heavier, his vertical jump, broad jump and career stats are all remarkably similar.
When you look at Fant as a prospect, this makes sense — because much like Metcalf, he’s seen as a bit “raw”. While he’s a freak athletically, he hasn’t really put it all together quite yet (hence the pedestrian college stat line) — which makes his status as a potential target at pick No. 24 or 27 somewhat concerning.
Of course, it’s worth pointing out that Fant isn’t the only Iowa tight end projected to be a first round pick next month (teammate TJ Hockenson is thought to be a top-10 pick) — so maybe Fant’s lack of production isn’t without reason. Still, it remains a concern.
As far as tight ends go, you have to know what you’re getting in Fant: a freak athlete who will be a matchup nightmare, but who won’t provide much in the way of blocking. In looking at the Raider roster, you could see how he’d be a younger, more athletic version of the guy they seemingly have let walk (Jared Cook). Then again, if you see this as a massive need, why not just re-sign Cook?
Heading into the off-season I was on board with plucking a guy like Fant in the back half of the first round — because for a team that was desperate for playmakers, Fant seems like a perfect fit. Now, though? Having spent loads of cap space on filling out a high-level receiving core, I’m afraid tight end might have to move down the priority list.
For me, as I evaluate Fant, this decision isn’t personal. The Raiders simply don’t need an elite offensive weapon as badly as they need ballers on the defensive side of the ball — therefore, I’m left saying…