Prospect: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Grade: 7.25 (Grading Scale)
Ertz has a very good frame – tall, long arms he presents a large receiving target. Has adequate bulk, but can add core strength to help improve as blocker. Has build up straight line speed, with the ability to accelerate by LBs. Not sudden in his change of direction, but can create space out of his routes.
Plays light on his feet, doesn’t look like he’s lumbering when running down field. Possesses a combination of size and agility to make him a perfect “movable” tight end at NFL level. Leaping ability is average at best, but can high point the football with big frame.
Ertz displays soft and natural hands, especially when catching the ball on the move. Looks the ball in to his hands and puts it away quickly. Does of a good job of getting position on linebackers and shielding the ball from the defender with his body. Makes good adjustments to poorly thrown balls and can adjust while in the air.
Catches the ball over his shoulder well and can track the deep throw. Has the ability to extend when in tight coverage and present large catch radius for the QB. Big red zone threat is able to create space for himself with big frame and length.
Gets off the line of scrimmage very quickly. Is able to run by linebackers down the middle of the field. Makes running his routes look easy, with not much wasted motion or exaggeration. He does have a habit of rounding his routes, especially the out-breaking ones or his crossing route. Does a great job of finding the soft spot in the zone, will fade or drift his route to the soft spot creating a throwing lane for the QB. Gets out of his breaks quickly and whips his head back to locate the football. Able to set up the defender with stutter step/head fake and break in opposite direction.
Lines up in the slot, split out and in an off-set position. Can line up in the backfield as an H-Back to take advantage of his speed. Runs the seam very well, will get behind the linebackers can adjust route accordingly. Ertz can be jammed and held up at the line of scrimmage. His top end speed is just okay and doesn’t possess explosive suddenness. Gets open with smarts and understanding of the passing offense.
Ertz has a lot of work to do as an in-line blocker. While he shows willingness and good effort as a blocker, he is simply not great at it. As a run blocker he gets caught lunging at defenders and overextends by bending at the waste. He can deliver a good initial “pop” at point of contact, but can’t hold his block for long. Makes most of his blocks by “running interference”, kind of shielding the defender from the running lane.
Ertz gives up too much ground and can be overpowered. Fights to maintain his blocks, won’t back down and fights to gain leverage. Won’t be a typical in-line TE at NFL level, but adding strength and technique as a blocker will make him a more complete player. He’s a much better open field blocker, picking up defenders after a catch or getting out ahead of the running back.
Ertz shows a very good understanding of the passing system. He knows where the openings of the defense are and he can exploit them by adjusting his route. Displays a toughness and physical element to his game, fits for extra yards. Has worked hard off the field to add weight and muscle, but still has some work to do.
Ertz profiles as a “joker” tight end due to his ability to line up off the line of scrimmage and move around formations. However, with the addition of strength and technique work he can line up as an in-blocker as well. Missed three games as a sophomore with a knee injury – only major injury to speak of.
Zach Ertz is one of the top players in the 2013 NFL Draft regardless of position. He has a chance to be the first tight end off the board in April and could sneak into the end of the first round. His ability to be a play-making tight end and stretch the field vertically makes him a very attractive asset to NFL teams. He has sure hands and runs routes with an easiness that is tough to cover. Ertz has the frame and agility to exploit linebackers in man coverage and can always find the soft spot in zone coverage.
Possessing versatility to move around the formation and play off the line, teams will look to utilize Ertz as a “do everything tight end”. Ertz needs to become a more reliable blocker, especially in the run game as he is more of a liability right now.