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Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Will Noah Fant play a bigger role in the passing game?

By meerna Jul11,2024
Will Noah Fant play a bigger role in the passing game?

In less than a month, the Seattle Seahawks will begin training camp at the VMAC, officially kicking off their first season under new head coach Mike Macdonald.

As we prepare for the new season, over the next few weeks we’ll be taking a deep dive into each member of the Seahawks’ 90-man roster, analyzing scheme fits, examining best- and worst-case scenarios and predicting what to expect from each player heading into the 2024 campaign.

Will Noah Fant, the quarterback who was given a new two-year contract this offseason, finally find his place as a serious offensive player for Seattle?

Rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports out of high school, Fant signed with Iowa — widely known as a tight end factory in the Big Ten Conference — as part of the 2016 recruiting class. Over the course of his sophomore and junior years, Fant caught 69 passes for 1,013 yards and 18 touchdowns, scoring six times on more than 26 percent of his receptions. That production, combined with his size and athleticism, catapulted Fant up draft boards, leading to his selection by Denver with the 20th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Fant was productive with the Broncos (170 catches, 1,905 yards over three seasons), but never really became a red-zone threat, scoring 10 touchdowns while wearing the orange and blue. Fant was traded to Seattle after the 2021 season as part of the Russell Wilson deal and has since amassed 106 receptions for 900 yards and four touchdowns in two seasons with the Seahawks. Seattle gave Fant a two-year, $21 million contract this offseason with $11.49 million guaranteed, according to Over The Cap.

Fant stands out among Seattle tight ends simply because he’s the only real threat at receiver. Likely immediate replacements for the Seahawks are Pharaoh Brown — a veteran who signed as a free agent in March — and rookie fourth-round pick AJ Barner, who have primarily played blocking tight ends in their careers. Listed at 6-4, 249 pounds, Fant has 4.50 speed and good hands with just nine total drops in his five-year career.

Despite tight ends not being the focal point of offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb’s program in Washington, Fant is receiving more than 75 passes in a legitimate vertical attack and is returning to similar production to what he had in Denver in 2020-21. While Fant is gaining more than 600 yards, he is also being heavily utilized in the red zone and has scored a career-high five touchdowns.

With Seattle’s roster loaded with receiver talent, Fant remains a sporadic presence in the passing game. In addition, Seattle’s coaching staff kept undrafted rookie free agent Jack Westover on the practice squad, who would eventually be promoted to the 53-man roster and create an H-back role that better fits Grubb’s scheme — soaking up Fant’s targets. As a result, Fant finished with fewer than 400 receiving yards, and his new contract drew further criticism.

Fant has flashed the ability to be a top-tier tight end in every season of his NFL career. But especially in Seattle, he simply hasn’t seen the target share that would allow him to get there. In his best season with the Broncos in 2020, Fant was targeted 93 times (62 receptions) for 673 yards and three touchdowns. He still averaged just under 45 yards per game this season. He averaged under 10 yards per reception in 2021-22, which would require a ton of volume to be anywhere near the top tier of pass-catchers at the position.

But in Pete Carroll’s 14-season tenure, Seattle has had just three tight ends with 500-plus yards receiving, and that was when he targeted Jimmy Graham from 2015-17. Now that Mike Macdonald is the Seahawks’ head coach and Grubb is taking over the team’s offensive scheme, there could be a shift toward getting the ball to Fant more often — as part of the offense’s intended function, of course. He has the route-running ability and the size to be a threat in the red zone if given the chance to be productive in that area, as he was in college. There should be room on offense for Fant to have 500-plus yards and five touchdowns, especially if Tyler Lockett steps into a true No. 3 wide receiver role behind DK Metcalf and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

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By meerna

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