When the Philadelphia Eagles traded wide receiver Jordan Matthews to the Buffalo Bills, early assumptions would suggest that the biggest winner of the deal was Nelson Agholor. While he will have an increased role, he has yet to be efficient at the NFL level. With Alshon Jeffrey locked in as the WR1, and with Torrey Smith better suited for a field stretching role in the Eagles’ offense, I believe the biggest beneficiary of the Matthews trade is not Nelson Agholor, but that it is tight end Zach Ertz.
The Forgotten Target Hog
Best known for his production at Stanford, posting a 31.8-percent (90th-percentile) College Dominator Rating, Zach Ertz is an underrated athlete at the tight end position, posting a 113.8 (67th-percentile) SPARQ-x Score. Of course, at the NFL level, when most think of Zach Ertz they will usually mention how he seemingly only produces in the month of December, but Ertz was a featured part of the offense for all 2016, as his 106 targets were the fifth most at the tight end position. Ertz was also one of only six tight ends who saw over 100 targets. Along with his 19.7-percent (No.8) Target Share, Zach Ertz commanded a 12.5-percent (No.10) Hog Rate and was highly productive for fantasy owners, boasting a +30.5 (No.5) Production Premium, and finishing No.3 in the league with 13.1 fantasy points per game. With the tight end being a prominent part of the Eagles’ offense, Ertz’s 2016 numbers were similar to what Travis Kelce averaged in two seasons under Doug Pederson while he was offensive coordinator in Kansas City.
The Eagles have plans to utilize the tight end position more this season, and with an uninspiring run game Philadelphia looks again to be a pass heavy offense, as Carson Wentz attempted 608 (No.5) passes last season. Possessing a high floor, high volume role, Zach Ertz is currently being drafted as the TE9 in fantasy leagues.
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I believe that we are overlooking the upside Zach Ertz possesses in 2017. With Jordan Matthews now gone there are an additional 116 targets available. Alshon Jeffery is of course the top target in the offense but he has had a recent multi season history of soft-tissue injuries, and a PED suspension. Evidence shows that players who get suspended once are at a greater risk to be suspended again. If that is indeed the case with Jeffrey, then Zach Ertz is looking at a scenario where he is the featured option in a high volume passing offense.
Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce will command premium draft capital, Jordan Reed is one of the few players we can label “injury prone”. Wait on tight end and draft Zach Ertz, who possesses top end upside at the position in 2017 at a significant discount.