Buffalo Bills: Iowa tight ends could be sleeper targets in NFL Draft
The Iowa Hawkeyes have produced arguably the top two tight ends in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Buffalo Bills could be in the market for either.
Heading into the 2019 offseason, it is apparent that the Buffalo Bills will be looking to upgrade the tight end position.
Charles Clay was benched toward the end of the season and saw a reduced role on the offense, signaling the almost certain end of his Bills tenure. With Clay on the way out, that means the team will need a new body or bodies coming in.
The 2019 NFL Draft is loaded with tight end talent as it may be the deepest position of them all. With all that depth, the two best players at the position come from the same huddle.
T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant are arguably the top two players at the position in the draft and both are former Iowa Hawkeyes. While Fant was the early favorite to be the top tight end in the class, Hockenson put together an incredible redshirt sophomore season that landed him the John Mackey Award for the nation’s top tight end.
Hockenson has shot up draft boards and is most likely TE1 come April. At 6-foot-5 and 243 pounds, Hockenson has the frame of a top-tier tight end in the NFL today. He put together a season that consisted of 49 receptions for 760 yards and six touchdowns, showcasing he has the production in an offense that houses another top tight end in Fant.
When it comes to Fant, his athleticism might be his best trait. Just slightly smaller than Hockenson at 6-foot-4 and 232 pounds, he is still a matchup nightmare for defenders. Fant has rare speed for a tight end and is extremely dangerous threat in the passing game. While not known for his blocking, Fant can certainly get the job done.
In his junior season at Iowa, Fant racked up 39 catches, 518 yards and seven touchdowns. That came off of a sophomore season where he totaled 30 catches, 494 yards and 11 touchdowns. His touchdown numbers clearly showcases his ability to find the end zone. Fant will certainly stretch the field and add an additional wrinkle for whatever offense he plays in when he arrives in the NFL.
Despite Fant’s superior athletic ability, Hockenson is a more complete prospect. He, in my eyes, should be a sleeper pick for the Bills – especially if they trade back.
Hockenson checks boxes in both the run and pass games as he can contribute at a high level in both areas. He is an incredible run blocker and can help out on an offensive line but also be the best friend of a young quarterback.
To me, the Philadelphia Eagles come to mind. Zach Ertz is a top three tight end in the league. Despite having Alshon Jeffery on the outside, Ertz is clearly the favorite weapon of Carson Wentz. Even with his massive contributions within the passing game, Ertz is a very good blocker as he helps big time in the run game.
With the Bills lacking weapons on the outside, Hockenson could be the Ertz-type player the Bills need that contributes in the passing and run games. He can be Josh Allen’s best friend and the two can form a similar relationship like Wentz and Ertz have for the next decade.
Regardless where the Bills go at the position, the team should certainly target the draft with how deep the class is. Both Hockenson and Fant appear to be first-round selections and if the Bills could find a way to one of them, they could cross a big need off their list.