Although the tight end position is deeper than in years past, that doesn't mean there aren't any sleepers that can make a major impact in fantasy football in 2014. One such name that should be front and center in people's minds prior to draft day is the Philadelphia Eagles' Zach Ertz.
While he didn't light up the box score, Ertz had a solid season for a rookie tight end, recording 36 receptions for 469 receiving yard and four touchdowns. He thrived down the stretch, too, recording 15 receptions for 195 receiving yards and three touchdowns in his last five games, while showing the tools that made him a second-round draft pick (35th overall) in 2013.
True, the Eagles still have Brent Celek around at tight end, but at 29, he is not the future at the position.
With a loaded offense featuring Nick Foles at quarterback; LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles in the backfield; and Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and new rookie Jordan Matthews at receiver, expect the Eagles to have a wide-open offense that involves exploiting all their key weapons. Expect coach Chip Kelly to have a few more tricks up his sleeve in his second year in the league.
Now that DeSean Jackson is gone, the Eagles will have a more diverse, revised playbook with more plays designed for Ertz, who has wowed the Eagles coaching staff.
From Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Enquirer:
The Eagles, of course, have added two pieces - Jeremy Maclin and Darren Sproles - to supplement the 2013 production that left with Jackson. But of their current players, Ertz has perhaps the best chance to dramatically increase his numbers now that Jackson is in Washington, especially if the second-year tight end delivers upon Eagles expectations.
'I think Zach can have a huge role,' coach Chip Kelly said last week.
An Ertz jump probably would have come in his sophomore season even if Jackson had stayed. He has the look of a 'future Pro Bowler' - the first-round grade the Eagles gave him last year - and over the last decade that caliber of tight end has seen his production spike from Year 1 to Year 2.
In the previous 10 seasons, 19 tight ends were selected to the Pro Bowl. The 19 players, as a whole, averaged 30 catches for 334 yards and three touchdowns in their rookie years. A year later, they averaged 56 catches for 649 yards and five touchdowns.
With a full grasp of the Eagles offense and him gelling with Foles on a full-time basis, Ertz should naturally take a big leap in his sophomore campaign. Those above projections should make him a viable weapon in fantasy circles.
While he may not be among the top eight to 10 tight ends selected, Ertz is still a fine No. 1 tight end to target in Rounds 9 or later, as he has all the variables you want in a breakout tight end. After all, he plays in an electric offense, has a gunslinger for a quarterback and has the pedigree to be a success tight end.
What more needs to be said?
So if you pass on some of the elite tight ends early, have no fear, because if you are able to grab Ertz late, his upside alone should be worth the wait.
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