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The Gut Check No.366: Over-Under, TEs

Waldman's first pass at the 2016 tight ends through the lens of average draft position.

Precision is overrated in May and June. The archery, surgical lasers, and nanotechnology will have its time in July. This spring, it's all about horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons at the office of the Gut Check. 

We all have to start somewhere. As I create my first set of fantasy rankings, I'm beginning with the broad strokes. Today's Gut Check profiles tight ends that I like significantly more or less than the current ADP in PPR leagues. 

A COMMUNIQUE FROM CAPTAIN OBVIOUS 

My values versus existing ADP will change. How much, I have no idea. This article is that starting point. The purpose of this exercise is to note which tight ends merit closer examination when creating your draft plans.

Overrated

Zach Ertz (ADP 70, The Gut Check 138): Our player summary at Footballguys poses the basic question underlying how people feel about Ertz, " Is he a young, franchise asset that's simply been underutilized? Or is he a good but not great player that had unreasonable expectations thrust upon him thanks to his association with the Chip Kelly offense?" While many believe the answer lies somewhere in between, I think it's clear: Until I consistently see otherwise, count my vote for the scheme fit over the franchise talent.

Ertz is an average to above average receiving tight end and we'll look back at the fuss over his upside between 2013-2015 as only partially accurate due to Kelly's scheme. Top talents at this position score touchdowns and with only minor exceptions do touchdown producers at this position lack above average athletic ability and skill versus physical play. Ertz's athletic prowess is not as good as people think. 

Draftniks projected Ertz highly because they saw a fluid, gliding athlete working from the slot. They liked his height and wingspan. They foresaw an all-around weapon due to these characteristics. While I agree that his athletic ability meets a partial definition of "fluid", it's not complete. 

Where his athletic ability works is after the catch. Ertz was fifth among tight ends with 321 yards after the catch, average 4.3 yards after each reception. This is a solid number for a tight end that's within the range of players like Greg Olsen (4.6) and Delanie Walker (4.1) but it's not in the same neighborhood as elite athletes like Jordan Reed (5.6) and Travis Kelce (7.4) and Ertz caught three more passes than Kelce. Eric Ebron is a more fluid athlete on tape and his YAC average was 6.1. 

The takeaway is that Ertz may make the first man miss or carry a defender a few steps before tackled but he's not an open-field weapon that will create a lot of yards. The only way an offensive scheme will change this fact is if there are three All-Pro skill players playing in the same offense and their presence forces defenses to leave Ertz uncovered on a high percentage of his routes. 

Not gonna happen. 

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