One of the major storylines coming out of Indianapolis after the first day of the NFL combine was the “friendly” competition that has begun between Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, and the 6’5” tight end out of Stanford, Zach Ertz. Both impressed today in drills, going back and forth, both coming away with individual victories. Zach Ertz is a forceful looking human being; but I’m not sure if that translates into being a good tight end in the NFL.
To put it quite simply, Ertz did absolutely nothing to impress me on film. He is not great at running routes, his hands are extremely inconsistent, and he does nothing to create separation. Ertz was the favorite target for the Stanford Cardinal this past season, but I don’t think you would guess that by his numbers. Ertz had just 62 catches for 898 yards and just 6 touchdowns in 2012, not mind-blowing stats by any means. To be fair, those stats were actually far better than Tyler Eifert’s, but I feel that I saw Eifert make far more big plays (and tougher plays) than Ertz did.
One of the most frustrating things about Ertz was his lack of presence in the redzone. Someone of his size and athleticism needs to be a bigger threat when inside the 20-yard line. The tight end has become a big part of an NFL offense mainly for their use in goal line situations; Ertz needs to work on becoming more of a threat in those scenarios if he wants to be a great NFL player.
Tight end is a very difficult position to play; you need to be able to block like an offensive tackle and catch like a wide receiver. Unfortunately, Ertz also fails to impress in the former. Frankly, Ertz seems like a liability in the blocking game. He doesn’t seem to have the strength or the proper technique that is needed to be a good in-line blocker. If Ertz gets taken by a team that doesn’t have an athletic QB who can avoid outside pressure, he might get that QB hurt if he is forced to play a significant amount.
Ertz certainly did make a lot of key plays for the Cardinal during his time in Stanford, but his inconsistency is what bothers me. On several occasions during my time watching his film, I would see him make a spectacular grab, only to follow it up by dropping a wide-open pass in the middle of the field. There were even problems I saw on those plays that he did make. On more than one play, I saw him commit what I would consider offensive pass interference to gain some separation and it was never called. I think that if he tries to pull something like that at the next level, he will quickly realize it won’t fly.
Zach Ertz is a great athlete and I honestly think he has a lot of potential. The problem is I’m not sure if he is going to be able to achieve that potential in the NFL. He doesn’t have out of this world hands, he is far from a great blocker, and he is extremely inconsistent. Personally, I wouldn’t take Ertz before even the middle of the second round, and even then I would be a little bit concerned. Ertz could thrive if he is put in the right situation with the right QB. The Giants pick at 19, and while I think that might be the perfect situation for him, 19 is far too high for me. If the Giants were willing to wait, picking him in the second, if he were still around, that would be a pretty smart move for them.
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