Zach Ertz Is Being Drafted Too High in Fantasy Football
The Philadelphia Eagles lost their three starting wide receivers, backup tight end Dallas Goedert, and running backs Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders to injury at various points throughout the 2019 season.
Despite being one of the few targets available to Carson Wentz each week, Zach Ertz saw a 24% target share in 2019 -- compared to the 26% target share he saw in 2018 when he set a career-high 278 fantasy points in points per reception leagues (PPR).
Heading into 2020, the Eagles have Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson returning from injury, drafted rookie wide receiver Jalen Reagor in the first-round, along with two other late-round wide receivers, and traded for Marquise Goodwin.
The Eagles know they need to have more production from their wide receiver position in 2020 and that could spell trouble for Zach Ertz.
Less 12 Personnel Offense
12 personnel is when an offense only has two wide receivers on the field, and instead of a third wide receiver, there is typically an extra tight end on the field.
Per SharpFootballStats, the Eagles have ranked inside the top five in the percentage of plays run in 12 personnel for three out of the last four years. They ranked first last year running a whopping 52% of their plays in 12 personnel.
The injuries at wide receiver last year forced the Eagles into utilizing their tight ends more than they likely planned to do heading into the season.
The Eagles have shown, under head coach Doug Pederson, from 2016 to 2018 they averaged running plays in 12 personnel 31.3% of the time. 2019 saw an increase of 21% of 12 personnel.
It's safe to say that the Eagles won't be utilizing only two wide receivers on more than half of their plays in 2020. That means fewer opportunities for Zach Ertz overall. We also have to consider that Dallas Goedert will likely spell Ertz on plays with three wide receivers on the field from time to time.
Not only that, but the Eagles have targeted tight ends the most in the NFL each of the past two years and ranked second in 2017. They are the only team over the past three years to target tight ends over 200 times in a season and they've done it twice.
The Eagles offseason actions show they should want to get more production out of their wide receiver position.
The Rise of Dallas Goedert
When the Eagles drafted Dallas Goedert in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, many people were wondering how he would be used in the same offense that already contained a Pro Bowl tight end in Zach Ertz.
Goedert was seen as one of the best tight ends in that draft class but the NFL hadn't seen a team deploy an offense focused heavily on two tight ends since the Patriots did it with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
The table below shows how the Eagles' targets to the tight end position have been divided up between Zach Ertz and the second tight end on their team over the past three seasons.
|Zach Ertz Targets||Target Share||TE2 Targets||Target Share|
Ertz actually saw a large increase in the number of targets and target share the season Dallas Goedert was drafted. However last year we saw how after a year of NFL experience, Goedert became more involved in the offense.
Even with the pile of injuries to the wide receiver position, Ertz had fewer targets and a lower target share than in 2017 -- when Goedert wasn't even on the team. The second tight end on the team that season was Trey Burton.
Ertz ranked second in targets in 2019 among the tight end position, but ranked fifteenth in positional target share.
If the overall targets to the position fall as we expect them to in 2020 that is going to result in significantly fewer targets for Ertz -- assuming the Eagles continue to utilize Goedert in their offense.
It isn't just the target numbers that Goedert is starting to eat into. Goedert also had five touchdowns in 2019 compared to Ertz's six, and had six end zone targets compared to Ertz's eight.
Tight end is the most touchdown-dependent position in fantasy football. If the Eagles continue to target Goedert in the end zone, Ertz will not be able to keep pace with the other top tight ends that he is being drafted around in fantasy football drafts.
Zach Ertz is Being Over Drafted
The TE4 in the past five years has averaged 207 fantasy points in PPR leagues. Ertz has been within five points of that mark each of the past three seasons. It may seem safe to assume that he can get at least close to that mark again in 2020, but the 2019 season hid a lot of red flags.
If not for the numerous injuries sustained by the Eagles' skill position players in 2019 we would have likely seen that Ertz's volume was going down.
Ertz is currently projected to have 185.2 fantasy points in PPR leagues on 112 targets. Not only that but numberFire has both Darren Waller and Evan Engram projected to score about the same amount of fantasy points as Ertz in 2020.
According to BestBall10s average draft position, you can draft Waller a full round later than Ertz in round six, and Engram in round seven.
Zach Ertz is not the tight end you want to draft early in 2020. He is expected to lose volume in an offense that has invested heavily in the wide receiver position. His current fantasy projection is much lower than the historical average TE4 season that he is currently being drafted as, and there are other tight end options with similar projections later in the draft.