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What You Need to Know:
-- Fant posted the 17th-best PPR season for a rookie TE since the 1970 merger.
-- Both he and QB Drew Lock could use some work on their efficiency.
-- New OC Pat Shurmur has been friendly to TEs recently.
-- Denver added quite a bit to the offense since last season.
Fant enjoyed a solid rookie season after arriving in Denver as the #20 overall pick. He posted the #17 PPR season by a rookie TE since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, ahead of players such as Zach Ertz, Mark Andrews and George Kittle, and just behind Chris Herndon and Jordan Reed.
Fant’s 66 targets tied for 14th in that group. He delivered the 8th most receiving yards and 10th most yards per reception. His catch rate, however, ranked just 65th -- a product of both a TE and QB who need refining.
Pro Football Focus graded Drew Lock near the bottom of the league as a passer over his 5 weeks of starting last season. It also graded Fant just 31st among TEs in receiving for the year.
Shurmur Here to Help?
After the season, Denver fired 1st-time OC Rich Scangarello and hired Pat Shurmur, whom the Giants had just canned. Shurmur has spent all or part of 11 seasons as an NFL OC or HC across 5 franchises, and his recent offenses have been kind to TEs.
Each of those 5 squads found more than 15% target share for the lead TE. Three of those teams had a TE garner more than 19% of team targets (adjusting Evan Engram’s numbers to account for missed games). Those TEs were pretty good: Zach Ertz, Kyle Rudolph and then Engram. But it sounds like Shurmur also likes his new guy.
In his February introductory news conference, Shurmur called Fant “very similar” to Engram and said he had a “really, really high opinion” of the TE during last year’s draft process. Shurmur acknowledged that Fant is primarily a receiver but also credited him with being a “gritty blocker.”
New Offensive Pieces
Last year’s Broncos offered plenty of room for Fant to draw targets. With 66 of them, he ranked 2nd behind Courtland Sutton’s 126, with DaeSean Hamilton next at 52. This year’s squad presents more competition.
Denver drafted WR Jerry Jeudy 15th overall and looks poised to make him the #2 wideout right away. The Broncos also drafted WR K.J. Hamler in Round 2. And after ranking 9th in the league in RB target share last season, Denver paid up in free agency for Melvin Gordon, who has well outperformed Phillip Lindsay in the passing game.
The crowd might cap Fant’s upside, but a share in the 15% range remains quite doable. To add some context: Only 5 TEs reached 15% target share throughout the NFL last season. A 15% share of last year’s 504 attempts would have tied Fant for 12th at the position in targets (76). Denver ranked just 27th in pass attempts in 2019. Shurmur has had just 2 offenses rank lower than 16th in pass attempts (and 1 of those came in Chip Kelly’s first Philly season).
The impressive speed in the Broncos’ WR corps can help create space for Fant to work the middle of the field.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line:
Fant’s fantasy debut provided optimism, and Denver’s OC change to Pat Shurmur offers some more. He’ll face more competition for targets, and both he and his QB need to develop.
But this former 1st-round pick presents enough athletic upside to be worth betting on in low-TE1 range.