The Eagles continued to stockpile offensive talent by drafting Stanford first team All-American tight end Zach Ertz early in the second round. At the NFL Combine, Ertz measured 6’5″, 249 pounds, and ran a 4.76 second 40-yard-dash. He was the second tight end to be drafted behind Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert (21st overall). Here’s what Eagles fans can expect next year:
Ertz displays soft hands, consistently makes easy catches. Able to come down with spectacular catches. Will keep hands underneath the ball on low throws and plucks the ball out of the air easily. Not an explosive leaper, but can go get high balls. Will make catches in traffic. Not especially physical, but uses his body well to shield the ball from the defender. Occasional lapses in concentration, especially when defenders get hands in the passing lane. Guilty of a handful of drops, but overall focus and ball skills are excellent.
Very smooth in and out of his breaks. Does not sink his hips as much as most other tall receivers, and keeps his momentum after changing directions. Understands how to set defenders up with head fakes and double moves. Loves the deep out route. Can be sudden when executing sharp cuts. Can get jammed at the line of scrimmage and does not use his hands to beat the press well.
Offers little as a run blocker. Blocks upright and generates almost no push. Is usually in the right position and flashes the ability to overpower smaller defenders at the second level or defensive linemen when double teamed. Lunges and whiffs too often. Not very strong. Almost never asked to pass protect at Stanford, as he was the go-to weapon in the passing game. Has the frame to improve as a run blocker. Does not necessarily want contact, but will give good effort down the field as a blocker.
Size and smoothness are his best attributes. Not an especially explosive athlete. Fast enough to stretch the field on flag and seam routes as well as deep outs. Won’t outrun safeties, but should be a mismatch for most linebackers. Can line up as a traditional in-line tight end, in the slot, and out wide. Has a big catch radius and frame has room for growth. Combine testing was superior to what Ertz showed on tape. Not a great leaper.
Other (durability, character, etc.)
Started all 14 games in 2012 and production was top-notch. No apparent character concerns. Father played college football at Lehigh. Only injury history includes a knee injury that sidelined him for 3 weeks of 2011 season.
Fit in Eagles system
Chip Kelly loves his tight ends because of their versatility, and Ertz is a good fit because he can line up all over the field. He has the frame to play the traditional in-line tight end role behind Brent Celek, but is probably a better fit as an “F” tight end (this role has many different names and variations including flex, slot, move, joker, h-back). With Brent Celek and James Casey entrenched as the team’s top two tight ends, projecting Ertz’s role is merely guesswork. I envision him mostly as a big slot receiver along with James Casey. He will have a huge size advantage as a blocker on screen passes and outside zone reads and can dwarf most nickel corners in the passing game. Look for the Eagles to employ a lot of 12 personnel (1 running back, 2 tight ends). I think Casey will almost always be on the field, with Celek and Ertz rotating depending on whether or not Kelly wants an in-line tight end on that particular play.
Not a huge fan of the pick. I understand how big of a role Chip Kelly envisions tight ends playing in the Eagles offense, but the Eagles took a third tight end when the defense is paper thin in terms of depth and lacks any star player. James Casey and Brent Celek are under contract through 2015 and 2016, respectively, and Ertz will have a hard time playing meaningful snaps unless the Eagles give up on either Celek or Casey. Chip Kelly deserves a pass because his mad scientist ideas have panned out on the college level, but I don’t like him adding luxury pieces to the offense at the expense of the defense. The Eagles needed toughness more than a third tight end in this draft. Ertz is essentially ready to be a starting tight end from day one, but his lack of explosiveness and physicality will cap his upside and prevent him from ever reaching an elite level.