Zach Ertz is one of the best tight ends in the game. He had over 100 catches last season in his fourth year as a pro. With an emerging second-year tight end in Dallas Goedert demanding more targets in the Philadelphia Eagles offense, can Ertz continue to be a premier tight end for fantasy football in 2019?
Zach Ertz Fantasy Football Preview
Now that Ertz has real competition for tight end snaps and targets in Philly, there’s a good chance that we will see some regression from his gaudy 2018 statistics. Although, we have seen situations in the past where two tight ends have both been able to thrive in an offense and provide high-end value for fantasy football.
Most of us remember the 2011 Patriots team that saw Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez combine for 169 catches, 2,237 yards, and 24 touchdowns. The two Patriots tight ends split the positional production approximately 64% Gronk/ 36% Hernandez, both finished as TE1’s in fantasy football that year.
There are those in the fantasy sports community that believe that this could be the fate of Ertz and Goedert in 2019. In this case, the split should favor Ertz. Ertz has been a target hog in the Philadelphia offense the past three seasons. He’s seen his target share increase in each of his pro seasons and he hit his peak in 2018. However, the assenting Goedert, now in his second season with the Eagles, will likely be a catalyst for Ertz’s regression in 2019. The million dollar question, however, is how much will Ertz regress, and will he still be a top tier tight end for fantasy football in 2019?
Zach Ertz Concerns
As previously stated, Ertz has improved statistically in each of his pro seasons. Ertz peaked in 2018 where he played all 16 games and saw 156 passing targets. With those targets, Ertz caught 116 balls, for 1163 yards, and eight touchdowns. That was good for a top-three finish in just about every fantasy scoring format. This was his second year in a row finishing as a top-three tight end in fantasy, and his third year finishing in the top eight. There’s little doubt that Ertz is the Eagles number one receiver. Although, this season, unlike seasons past, there are more mouths to feed in the Philadelphia passing game.
The Eagles added DeSean Jackson in the offseason. He now adds to a passing attack that also features Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Goedert, and Ertz. That’s a lot of mouths to feed, and I didn’t even include any rookie receivers or running backs that will also garner some attention in the passing game. With all those passing targets, it’s unlikely that Ertz will see anywhere near the number of targets he had in 2018.
Now, that doesn’t mean that Ertz can’t be a TE1 for fantasy football purposes. However, it does make it unlikely that he will be the best tight end in fantasy, or even top three, this season. If I were a betting man, and I am, I would bet that Ertz’s consecutive seasons as a top three fantasy tight end come to an end in 2019. Stats via [Pro Football Reference].
What The Metrics Say for 2019
Now that I have explained why I think Ertz will not be a top-three tight end in fantasy football this season, let me tell you why I believe that he will be a top-five player at his position.
First off, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz loves him. Ertz has been like Wentz’s security blanket. When things begin to breakdown, it’s Ertz that Wentz looks to in those tough situations. The two of them have chemistry, built over time, and there is a certain trust factor that exists between them. This ensures that Ertz will still have plenty of upside going forward.
Adding to his upside is the likelihood that the Eagles will have a high scoring offense. Also, many tight ends are touchdown dependent, but not Ertz, most of his production comes from catches and yards, which is more bankable production than touchdowns. Touchdowns can be fluky and hard to project from season to season, so let’s focus on things like targets, receptions, and yardage instead. Let’s take a look at Ertz over the last three seasons and see what kind of production we can bank on for 2019.
In 2016, Ertz played in 14 games, he was targeted 106 times and caught 78 passes for 816 yards and four touchdowns. In 2017 Ertz again played in 14 games, he was targeted 110 times, caught 74 passes for 824 yards and eight touchdowns. Finally, in 2018, Ertz played in all 16 games and had a 156/ 116/ 1163/ 8.
2018 is an obvious outlier here. Expecting Ertz to put up similar numbers to his 2018 season would be setting ourselves up for disappointment. So I went and figured out his per game average over his past three seasons and multiplied those stats by 15 in an attempt to get a more accurate projection for Ertz. Here’s what I came up with, 126 targets, 90 receptions, 949.5 yards, and 6.75 touchdowns. That seems like a reasonable projection for Ertz in 2019. These stats would place Ertz firmly in the top tier of tight ends in fantasy football.
Zach Ertz Projected Finish
Zach Ertz is a top-five fantasy tight end that has proven his metal over the last three seasons. Consistent and reliable, Ertz provides top-end value at the position and overall for fantasy football. Ertz is being drafted as either the second or third tight end in most competitive leagues and currently has a consensus ADP of 27th overall according to [FantasyPros].
When and where Ertz gets drafted in fantasy drafts this summer will vary widely from draft to draft. Basically, as soon as Travis Kelce comes off the board, Ertz should go off the board quickly thereafter. As he should, because few tight ends offer the bankable production that Ertz does. If you want to wait and target George Kittle, or even take him before Ertz then I don’t blame you. However, I would definitely try to lock at least one of these three down.
In my experience, it is beneficial to lock down one of the top-tier tight ends when drafting a fantasy team. It’s nice to have a stud locked into that spot all season so your focus in free agency and trades can be on running backs and wide receivers, who usually offer more upside and are more readily available. Think about it, not every team has a fantasy relevant tight end but they all have at least one or two relevant receivers.
Plus, with the way offenses are spreading out defenses these days, there are more and more wide receivers and running backs playing roles in the passing game for their perspective teams. That means more options in the mid-tier for those positions. However, that’s not necessarily the case for tight ends. There are only so many 6’6 guys that can run, catch, and run-block, so do yourself a favor and lock down one of the top-tier tight ends and look for value elsewhere. You’ll thank me later.
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