Through five games, few tight ends have disappointed their fantasy football managers like Zach Ertz. The set-and-forget top-end TE1 has completely fallen off the map at this point. Ertz squeezed out one catch for six yards on six targets in week five against the Steelers. Is it time to cut bait on Zach Ertz for something better, or are better days ahead for the (erstwhile?) fantasy football superstar?
When you drafted Zach Ertz, you drafted him for one major component of his game. That being that he’s a massive component of the Eagles’ passing game. From 2015 through 2019, about 20-25% of the Eagles’ passes went toward Ertz. He didn’t go below 23% in each of the last three years as he ascended to fantasy football superstardom. This year, he gets fewer than 18% of Carson Wentz’s targets. That’s not great, and a big reason why his production has fallen off a cliff. Granted, his 7.3 targets per game rank as fifth, they’re a drop off from the 9 targets per game he averaged over the last three seasons.
There are some reasons for this drop-off. And no, I am not calling the contract negotiations between Ertz and the Eagles one of them. That’s… silly. Very silly. As I said, he still is top-five in TE targets per game, he just isn’t catching them. That’s a big problem. Before Sunday’s action, Ertz had just two drops, he also had just 22 catchable targets. That went even more awry this weekend, as half of Ertz’s six targets weren’t even close to catchable (including a hideous Carson Wentz pick).
Teams aren’t doing anything to scheme away Zach Ertz, according to tape guru Greg Cosell:
That’s not good. Ertz had four catches for nine yards on five targets in that game. It also gives him five catches for fifteen yards in the last two games. My theory? The offensive line is a complete mess, and it’s causing Wentz to run for his life rather than play a game of pitch-and-catch with his star tight end. After getting 2.3 – 2.4 seconds to throw in 2018 and 2019, Ertz is down to 2 seconds before the pocket collapses. That might not seem like a lot, but an extra half-second is a lot in pocket time. It’s why Ertz’s catchable target rate has plummeted from one of the best to well below-average. It’s why he can’t catch any of these balls. And that means that it’s why he’s having so much trouble doing anything this season.
The big question: can the Eagles fix this? With Lane Johnson getting the cart in week five and leaving the 49ers game early, it isn’t looking good for the offensive line to bounce back. In addition to Johnson, Jason Kelce and Nate Herbig showed up on the injury report this week. Tack on IR trips for Jason Peters and Isaac Seumalo and you get the picture. No line means no protection for Wentz. No protection for Wentz means no quality targets for Zach Ertz.
So, if you have Zach Ertz, maybe better days are ahead? If you can buy low on Ertz, I probably would do it. He still has a ton of targets already, and we’re chasing that more than anything. While Ertz is on pace for just 112 targets after averaging 143 per 16 games the last three years, that’s still a lot of targets. Only eight guys not named Zach Ertz have seasons with over 110 targets over the last five years. I would poke around the Zach Ertz manager to see how frustrated he is in Ertz. If you are in a strong position in your league, and you can get him for a WR3 or backend RB2, I’d pull the trigger. He isn’t top-five Zach Ertz this season, but he still gets enough targets that you can backburner him, for now, to wait to see if things turn around.