2 Iowa tight ends likely to go in 1st round of NFL draft

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Not long ago, drafting a tight end in the first round was taboo for NFL teams.

On Thursday night, two might go very high -- and they come from the same school.

T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant of Iowa are projected to go early, and it's not just because they are versatile, talented players.

Or that the Hawkeyes have turned into a college mecca for the position.

Ten tight ends from Iowa have turned pro since 2000, including Dallas Clark, who helped the Colts win a Super Bowl, and George Kittle, who set records for the position with the 49ers last year.

With the emphasis on more passing and a shift toward more open offenses, the tight end spot has become a critical component of NFL attacks.

Every team is eager to find the next Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce or Zach Ertz. And colleges are putting more emphasis on using the tight end as a weapon, not as a glorified tackle.

Neither likely will go in the top half-dozen selections.

Those figure to be dominated by defensive players such as Nick Bosa of Ohio State, Quinnen Williams of Alabama, Josh Allen of Kentucky and Devin White of LSU.

Both are expected to be gone in the top 20 or so.