Denver moves down, selects Iowa tight end Noah Fant
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — John Elway gave Joe Flacco what he wanted Thursday night when the Denver Broncos general manager bypassed a quarterback in the first round of the draft and selected Iowa tight end Noah Fant with the 20th pick.
Fant and T.J. Hockenson, selected eighth by the Detroit Lions, became the first tight end teammates ever selected in the first round of the draft.
Fant said at the NFL scouting combine that he wanted to be the first tight end taken in the draft, but after seeing Hockenson go 12 spots ahead of him, he said he was OK with it because he was “super excited, super stoked” to join the Broncos.
“And I would argue that I’m in the best situation for a tight end in this draft,” he said.
Fant joins a young offense featuring second-year receiver Courtland Sutton and a tight end corps loaded with Big Ten alumni in Jake Butt, Jeff Heuerman and Troy Fumagalli, all coming off injuries.
“Coming into college, I watched those guys,” Fant said. “I’m sure they’re all great guys and I can’t wait to get to meet them.”
Fant also declared he was “super hyped” to play with Flacco, whom Elway acquired from Baltimore earlier this offseason. Last week, Flacco implored Elway to pick a non-QB in the first round, a stance that Elway said he understood completely.
Elway was in a similar spot in 1992 when then-Denver coach Dan Reeves bypassed receiver Carl Pickens and drafted Tommy Maddux much to Elway’s chagrin.
“Yeah, how’d that work out,” Elway cracked this week.
Elway surprisingly moved out of the “blue chip zone” when he traded the 10th overall pick to Pittsburgh for the 20th and 52nd overall selections and a 2020 third-rounder.
The real drama surrounding the Broncos during this draft weekend is what will happen with star cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who issued a pay-me-or-trade-me demand after Elway’s latest salvo in their contract clash this week.
Elway, who once asked Peyton Manning to take a pay cut and famously played hardball with Champ Bailey and later Von Miller, reiterated Tuesday that he’ll entertain Harris’ request for a big raise after the draft, but pointedly added, “it doesn’t mean we’re going to do it .”
Harris, 30, who is due $7.8 million in 2019, wants about twice that annual salary, especially after taking a hometown discount in 2015. He’s the only player in the NFL who has multiple interceptions in each of the last seven seasons and is the last remaining member of the team’s famed “No Fly Zone” secondary.
A Broncos blunder briefly inflamed matters Wednesday when their social media team posted a mock “Avengers: Endgame” poster on Twitter featuring several Broncos players but notably excluding Harris .
Harris retweeted it, saying, “this is real cold.”
Erich Schubert, the team’s director of media relations, quickly sent a Twitter message to Harris, saying, “We have some really talented and hard-working people who create & distribute content, but this was an unintentional oversight not approved by the organization and we’re sorry.”
Schubert added the Broncos would immediately implement “stronger approval procedures” and “some replacement graphics.” The team followed up with a quick edit to the post, inserting Harris and telling the ninth-year pro, “Hope this thaws things out. Our bad. We got you.”
Harris responded to that update with the clapping hands emoji.
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