According to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net, the Falcons took a hard look at Stanford tight end Levine Toilolo. But could Zach Ertz, another Stanford tight end, be explored as a possible long-term replacement for Tony Gonzalez? Ertz is a unique tight end who Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller has dubbed as the best tight end in the class.
May be alone here. Zach Ertz will be my top TE in this class. He and Tyler Eifert have an almost identical grade, but ZE is tops.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 9, 2013
While I personally disagree that he's the best tight end in the draft, Ertz does have a ton of great qualities. The Falcons have gone to California this week to work out a bunch of prospects, and Ertz was in the contingent they went to see according to Pauline:
Can confirm Zach Ertz/TE/Stanford also participating in west coast workout for Atlanta Falcons today.— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) April 7, 2013
Ertz has the ability to be a top tight end in the NFL. But he will have to use his natural abilities and refine his game a good bit to do so. Let's take a look at what Ertz could offer the Falcons.
Height: 6'5" Weight: 249 pounds
Arm Length: 31-3/4" Hand Measurement: 9-3/4"
40 yard dash: 4.67 sec. 10 yard split: 1.63 sec.
20 yard shuttle: 4.47 sec. 3-cone Drill: 7.08 sec. Bench Reps: 24 reps
Vertical Jump: 35.5" Broad Jump: 9'6"
2012: 14 Games Played, 69 Catches, 898 Yards, 6 Touchdowns
2011: 10 Games Played, 27 Catches, 346 Yards, 4 Touchdowns
2010: 13 Games Played, 16 Catches, 190 Yards, 5 Touchdowns
2009: Redshirted during his freshman year
As a receiving threat, he's the best tight end to come out in three years. He can run the high-low combination routes well and uses his body positioning to block out players in the passing game. His quickness helps when lined up around the formations. He can be used out of the backfield, in the slot or even in-line as a blocker.
He has potential as a blocker with his size and strength combination. But his technique and hand usage is terrible at this point. But he has a ton of intelligence as a Stanford gentleman and could definitely turn a weakness into a strength with proper coaching.
Most of Ertz's weaknesses come from his abilities on the blocking side. While he has adequate strength, he needs a ton of work. He gets thrown to the side and can't sustain blocks effectively. As a receiver, he could refine his route running a bit more as well, but that's a small part of his game there. There's few weaknesses in his game though.
Zach Ertz is definitely a top-three tight end in this year's class. He should be picked in the first two rounds and will make a team happy in the long term with his receiving and matchup ability. His blocking ability can be improved, and his athletic abilities make him an easy selection for a team needing a long-term option at tight end.
As an intelligent, tough player, Ertz also has an edge that could make him effective early in a scheme as a second tight end. If he puts it all together he could arguably be the best receiving tight end in the league long term.
How does he fit the Comrade Filter?
He was never arrested or suspended and was a leader for the Cardinal. Ertz is a very good teammate and a standard Stanford intelligent player with high character. He should fit in just fine with the Falcons if he were to be a selection.
How he would fit into the Falcons' plans
As far as what the Falcons would have to do to get Ertz, it's still up in the air. They would likely have to take him with their first-round pick or even trade up to the early second round. If Ertz is selected as the Falcons' first-round pick, it'd completely neglect the need for a starting cornerback.
But, the Falcons could trade up in the second for the talented tight end and possibly get a steal. He would be able to learn from Tony Gonzalez for a year and improve his blocking. After that, he could definitely be a great third option for the Falcons in the passing attack.
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus's Premium Stats, ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy Spotrac. All recruiting rankings come from 247Sports.com.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.