One of the biggest questions heading into the 2014 Fantasy Football season has been what to do at tight end. Second-year player Zach Ertz has turned many heads so far after a decent rookie season and solid 2014 preseason in which he has caught eight passes for 110 yards on nine targets.
This year, drafters are going to have to accept that there simply aren’t enough elite tight ends to go around. In fact, there’s only one, Jimmy Graham. But wait, didn’t Vernon Davis go for 850 yards and 13 touchdowns? Correct. But over his last five seasons, Davis has averaged just more than 800 yards and eight touchdowns. Admirable numbers, but is that really worth a fifth round pick when you can get similar production in a later round? As for Rob Gronkowski, are you really going to invest a third-round pick in a player who has missed enough games in the last two seasons to allow me to type out the digits in MLA format — 14?
Jared Cook Jr. That will be useful later.
Here’s where Ertz “Rent-a-Tight-End” comes into the picture. The 6-foot-5 tight end caught 36 balls for 469 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie backup for the Philadelphia Eagles last season. In fact, he received more targets than starter Brent Celek.
The bad news is that Celek caught more passes on fewer targets. But it’s always good fantasy news when your guy gets more looks, especially as a rookie and as a backup. There’s something about that Pac-12 connection between Ertz and quarterback Nick Foles that works, and should only get better with time.
The departure of DeSean Jackson works in favor of Ertz as well. Yes, in most cases, a team losing its best deep threat closes things up over the middle. Luckily for the Eagles, Celek and Ertz don’t operate like most tight ends. Celek ranked 15th in the NFL in yards-per-catch (YPC), putting him second among tight ends. Ertz was sixth.
In fact, every tight end with a higher YPC than Ertz has been mentioned in this article. This all means that the Eagles don’t need a deep threat for their tight ends to get open because they are the deep threats. Jackson accumulated 1,332 yards on 126 targets last season. Unless Jeremy Maclin plans on breaking every NFL receiving record, chances are Foles will be looking for Ertz early and often.
Both Ertz and Celek provide good fantasy value in all formats this year, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them both finish in the top 12 for fantasy tight ends. At this point, Ertz has the higher ceiling and better chemistry with his quarterback. Chances are Ertz will be available in 12-team drafts in round 12 or even later, meaning you have nothing to lose.
Plus, he should finish in the top 10 among tight ends. If you land Graham or a healthy Gronkowski – great. But the drop from three to 10 for tight ends isn’t great enough to warrant a reach.