Carney column: Fant a curious choice for Broncos after trade back
Broncos fans waited 10 picks later than expected, but John Elway traded back and got his man in Iowa tight end Noah Fant.
Before I get into the actual selection of Fant, it’s important to talk about the trade back with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 10th overall to 20th overall. Normally, when a team moves up 10 picks like the Steelers did, they have to give up a boatload of picks. That didn’t happen with the Steelers in their deal with Elway as Pittsburgh gave up the 20th pick, the 52nd overall pick (second round), and a 2020 third-round pick, which the Steelers will essentially replace with a compensatory pick for losing Le’Veon Bell and Jesse James in free agency this spring.
Holding all the leverage and clearly loving Devin Bush — Pittsburgh’s selection 10th overall — Elway was in a great position to force the Steelers to overpay. Instead, it appears as though the Steelers fleeced Elway and the Broncos. With all the cards coming up Broncos in that situation, Elway folded and allowed a hopeful AFC power to get a defensive difference maker in Bush.
Now that that’s out there, Elway and his staff should be thrilled with Fant. Coming out of Tight End U at Iowa, Fant fills a major need for Denver’s offense. With Jeff Heuerman and Jake Butt coming off of injuries, and Matt LaCosse signing with the New England Patriots in free agency.
Fant won’t block much, but he won’t be asked to do that, especially if Heuerman and Butt can come back at full strength, allowing Fant to play the role of “move” tight end, where he can split out at the Y and work against slot receivers and linebackers.
Coming into Thursday night’s first round, I didn’t really consider Fant for the Broncos, and I especially didn’t consider a trade down. After guys like Ed Oliver and TJ Hockenson came off the board prior to the Broncos’ pick, that opened the door for a move down to pick up additional picks and let the board shake out a bit more.
Following the selection, Elway told the Broncos’ team website that Fant is a legitimate tight end for today’s game. “He can really stretch the field, and he can really run,” Elway said.
I see no lies in that statement from Elway. Additionally, Joe Flacco absolutely loves to use his tight ends. After trading for Flacco this off-season, the Broncos desperately needed to get some weapons for the veteran quarterback to add to the crop of Emmanuel Sanders, DaeSean Hamilton and Courtland Sutton. Now, that’s exactly what they got with Fant, who is the ideal tight end for today’s game.
Despite the confusing ask from the Steelers to move down 10 spots, it was a very successful night for the Broncos as they added a legitimate Day 1 contributor in Fant, who should be a matchup problem and a major redzone threat for Flacco to turn to consistently.
Many thought the Broncos would go defense or quarterback, and instead Elway threw a curveball and added a guy who moves the needle immediately for a team hoping to contend this season.
Josh Carney is the sports editor of the Post Independent. To reach Josh, please email him at email@example.com, or find him on Twitter: @JCarney_Sports.
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