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Making a Case For Zach Ertz To Be TE1 in 2019

Zach Ertz Fantasy 2019

Did you know that Zach Ertz averaged 9.8 targets and 7.2 receptions per game last season? No other tight end has averaged more targets or receptions in a single season since 2000. Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has been anointed as the TE1 heading into fantasy football drafts this summer. Ertz, on the other hand, is projected by many analysts to finish as the TE3 behind San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle. This article will share two reasons why Ertz will finish as the TE1 in 2019.

Statistical Body of Work

Ertz set the NFL record for receptions by a tight end last season with 116. He also holds the Eagles franchise record for receptions. Were you aware the Ertz has had four career games with 13 or more receptions? This is tied for the second-most in NFL history behind wide receiver Wes Welker. The only other tight ends with more games with 10 or more receptions than Ertz are Tony Gonzalez (15) and Jason Witten (11).

Season Targets Receptions Rec Yards TDs PPR
2018 9.8 7.2 72.7 0.5 17.5
2017 7.9 5.3 58.9 0.6 14.6
2016 7.6 5.6 58.3 0.3 13.1
2015 7.5 5 56.9 0.1 11.5
2014 5.6 3.6 43.9 0.2 9.1
2013 3.7 2.4 31.3 0.3 7.1

Ertz has sustained a target share of 23.1 percent in 2017 and 26.4 percent in 2018. What makes those percentages even more impressive is that he’s averaged 16.2 PPR fantasy points per game over the last two seasons in spite of multiple quarterback injuries. Ertz also finished with positive receiving fantasy points over expectation during that time frame and led all tight ends in pass routes per game (28.6).

Ertz (848) had more air yards than Kelce (743) and Kittle (520) in 2018. He finished last season ranked third in receiving yards and touchdowns. Ertz led all tight ends with 56 slot receptions and averaged 6.3 slot fantasy points per game which ranked second behind Kelce’s average of 8.6 per game.

Player  Seasons Targets Rec Yards PPR
Zach Ertz 2017 to 2018 8.9 6.3 66.2 16.2
Travis Kelce 2017 to 2018 8.8 6 76.6 17.1

The statistical production of these two tight ends is eerily similar. One differentiator is the average draft position (ADP). Ertz can be drafted as late as the third round in 12-team PPR fantasy football drafts. Kelce’s ADP has crept into the first round.

The Eagles Offense: Don’t See Obstacles, See Opportunities

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has been very successful as a passer when targeting Ertz. He’s missed eight games over the last seasons due to a torn ACL and a fractured vertebra in his back. This negatively impacted Wentz’s production as his fantasy points per dropback fell from 0.53 in 2017 to 0.41 in 2018. This caused him to drop from 2nd to 20th place amongst quarterbacks. Jody Smith, a writer at FantasyData, believes that Wentz can help you win your fantasy football league in 2019. This would bode well for Ertz in 2019.

Are you concerned about the buzz surrounding tight end Dallas Goedert? The Eagles ran the second-most plays last season in two-tight end sets. This trend will continue in 2019. Ertz’s ability to run routes from the slot and take advantage of mismatches allows Goedert to line up in a more traditional tight end role. Both tight ends will play a high number of snaps on the field at the same time. Goedert’s presence is likely to negatively affect wide receiver Nelson Agholor’s target share. Many project him to open the season as the Eagles No. 3 receiver. Ertz and Goedert could split the positional production similarly to how Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez did back in 2011. Both players combined for 169 receptions, 2,237 receiving yards, and 24 touchdowns.

DeSean Jackson returns to Eagles after spending the last two seasons with Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He provides the team with a vertical threat. Jackson has generated 1,300 or more air yards in each of the last three seasons while averaging 6.5 targets per game over the last three. He only has surpassed 100 targets in one of his last seven seasons. Jackson’s presence will provide Ertz with even more room to operate. He will open the season as the Eagles No. 2 receiver.

What about Alshon Jeffery? He will open the season as the Eagles No. 1 receiver. Jeffery did miss the first three games of the 2018 season. His target volume was very inconsistent throughout the season. Were you aware Jeffery saw five or fewer targets in six games last season?

The Eagles running backs were only provided 102 targets in Doug Pederson’s offense last season. This ranked 30th in the NFL. This trend is likely to continue with running back Jordan Howard anticipated to open the season as the starter. He’s averaged 1,300 or more total yards and eight touchdowns per season. Howard has only averaged 2.3 targets per game in his three year NFL career. The Eagles also drafted Miles Sanders in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. This backfield is shaping up to be a committee, but it would be surprising to see either one of these backs threaten Ertz’s target share.

Conclusion

Ertz has been very consistent over the last three seasons. He can provide you a positional advantage at tight end since they’re very few difference makers. Targeting Ertz in the second to early third round will allow you to draft an elite RB1 or WR1. His steady target volume, creative playcalling from Pederson, and having quarterback Carson Wentz back under center will propel Ertz to a TE1 finish.

Do you agree or disagree? What did you find most useful? Please leave a comment below or better yet reach out via Twitter @EricNMoody. Until next time!

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