When you stare at the Eagles depth chart, tight end appears to be the least of the team's depth problems. With Brent Celek, the newly-signed James Casey and to as lesser extent, Clay Harbor, the Eagles seemed stacked at the position. But for an offensive chess player like Chip Kelly, the tight end is a key position in his game plan. That is why he made Stanford tight end, Zach Ertz, the 35th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
At 6'5" and 245-pounds, Ertz is a huge target. The former backup to Colby Fleener is coming off an All-Pac 12 and All-American season. Ertz was the top tight end recruit in the country coming out of high school in 2009. He redshirted in his first year, but was pass catching option for Andrew Luck in 2010 with 16 catches for 190 yards and five touchdowns. In 2011, Ertzs put up 27 catches for 346 yards and four touchdowns, despite suffering a knee injury that caused him to miss three games during his sophomore year. Ertz became the starter this past season and took advantage. Last season, Ertz scored six times on 89 catches for 898 yards.
Here is what NFL.com had to say about Ertz:
STRENGTHSSmooth athlete with good route quickness to create some separation and sneaky speed to get behind the defense. Sturdy, well-built frame, adding 30 pounds of bulk and muscle since he arrived in Palo Alto. Tough with the ball in his hands and isn’t afraid to deliver hits, lowering his pads and finishing runs. Not afraid to get physical as a blocker and gives good effort in this area, always looking for someone to block downfield. Tracks the ball well and does a nice job adjusting his frame to make the tough catch, extending and plucking. Looks like he has glue on his hands with some of the catches he is able to make. Does a nice job selling his patterns, getting good depth in his routes and immediately looking for the ball out of his breaks. Nice job deceiving defenders and finding soft spots in coverage to make something happen after the catch, averaging over 13 yards per catch in 2012. Has experience all over the offense for Stanford, lining up in-line, slot and out wide, but looked most comfortable in the slot. In 2012 Ertz doubled Coby Fleener's production from the year before, earning All-American honors as a Mackey Award finalist. Hard worker on and off the field and plans to graduate in June.
WEAKNESSESMissed half of his sophomore year due to injury. Must prove his straight-line speed to scouts. Will not elude NFL defensive backs after the catch with pure quickness. Inconsistent in-line blocker, can get after his man but also loses the leverage battle and gets pushed back too easily. Misses second-level blocks when lunging at targets instead of getting position. Nice job adding bulk to his frame, but needs to continue to develop his strength to sustain blocks at the line of scrimmage. Will round off some routes at times and needs to better control himself in/out of his breaks. Needs to do a better job coming down with contested throws and will drop some easy ones -– seems to have at least one drop each game.
NFL COMPARISONJason Witten
My Take: First, let's start with NFL.com's comparison of Jason Witten. That is such a false a comparison that comparing Jeremy Maclin to Anquan Boldin makes more sense. Ertzs has great hands like Witten, but that is really where the comparison ends. Ertz is a big man with crazy athleticism and he plays to his height. Stanford used the him in the slot, on the outside and at H-Back. Ertz is essentially a puzzle piece that fits anywhere. If you wanted a redzone wide receiver, you got him in Ertz. Kelly could put Ertz and Riley Cooper at wide receiver with Maclin along with Casey and Celek in a two tight-end set and have plenty of options in the redzone. Ertz could also be a candidate for slot snaps. While he could be viewed as a threat to Celek's job, Ertz should also put Jason Avant and Maclin on watch. He has the ability to play outside (while he only runs a 4.76, he is one of the better route-runners you will find coming out of college), in the slot, at H-Back and at tight end. His blocking is a bit mediocre, but not because of a lack of effort. I would expect Ertz to play more snaps per game than Casey, Avant and perhaps even Celek, because of his versatility. I was not initially excited about the pick, but after rewatching tape (no, like 4 times after my initial tape review before the draft), I think Ertz could be a special talent. If you watch the video below, you will see that Luck's replacement quarterbacks at Stanford are absolutely awful. Tim Tebow throws more catchable balls then the dynamic duo that the Cardinal paraded out on Saturdays. That is why Ertz had quite a few drops in college. I think if he can improve his blocking and ability to fight for the ball in the air, he could be a premier player in the NFL.
Like what you read about Ertz? That's great and all, but see if he passes your eye test (pay close attention to the Oregon game, and you will see why Chip loves him):