On April 25th, the Buffalo Bills will have a tough decision to make with the ninth overall pick in the NFL draft. The team has multiple positions in need of depth, but after Saturday’s combine results, general manager Brandon Beane could be narrowing in on a tight end; specifically one of two that wore black and gold.
T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant are both projected as first-round selections out of Iowa. Hockenson continues to impress with an official 4.70 40-yard dash, ranking seventh among tight ends at the combine. With a 6’5” frame and weight of 251 lbs, the former Hawkeye resembles an all-around talent who could instantly start on any roster. His ability to catch and block in both the run and pass game have multiple mock drafts putting him in Buffalo with the ninth pick.
Fant could sway scouting crews, however. His official 4.50 dash time was the fastest among the position. While his explosiveness may not translate to the well-rounded top-ten talent Hockenson is, Fant has a ceiling that could expand once he gets experience at summer camp.
Fant also led all tight ends in the vertical and broad jumps, recording 39 1⁄2” and 10’5”, respectively. This past season at Iowa, Fant also scored one more touchdown than Hockenson with seven. Fant was a projected late first-round pick in the 20s, but expect his stock to spike after Saturday’s performance in Indianapolis.
With Charles Clay off the roster, adding a tight end is a must for Buffalo. Either tight end would improve the offense, but with Hockenson’s current stock and the Bills’ spot in the draft order, Hockenson looks like the favorite as first off the board. Starting quarterback Josh Allen and running back LeSean McCoy are in desperate need of a blocking offensive line. Hockenson could be a key blocker in stance next to the starting five with the equal ability to leave the line of scrimmage for passing yardage.
With the addition of wideout Duke Williams and breakout receiver Robert Foster on the roster, Fant becomes a less likely option for the Bills. The combine standout may have Hockenson beat in Saturday’s events, but his explosiveness is less intriguing when Foster is already Buffalo’s established deep threat.
Depth at the tight-end position will certainly be discussed among Buffalo scouts, possibly resulting in the Bills drafting two tight ends in April. 2019 boasts plenty of available players at the position, including Alabama’s Irv Smith, Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger, and UCLA’s Caleb Wilson.
If Buffalo chooses not to draft two tight ends, there are available free agents that could mentor whomever the Bills take at the position.
Whether through the draft or the free-agent market, expect Buffalo to make a big splash in the available pool of tight ends this offseason.