Zach Ertz: A Thing Again in Fantasy

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C.D. Carter
·4 min read
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With a healthy dash of context, it could be helpful -- actionable, even -- to know how a defense is being attacked.

Are enemy offenses peppering the middle of the field against a certain defense, leading to a glut of tight end opportunity? Are wide receivers having their way against a defense, commanding a massive target share? Are running backs seeing plenty of dump off opportunities against a particular defense?

These are questions I’ll address in this space during the regular season, examining which positions are seeing the most opportunity against a certain defense in an exercise that might serve as the tiebreaker in your weekly agonizing start-sit decisions.

With every passing week, our understanding of how offenses are going after defenses should improve. Context will be key, as a bunch of targets to Travis Kelce doesn’t mean Tyler Eifert is going to see the same kind of opportunity against the same defense. If only it were that easy.

Tight End

Zach Ertz (PHI) vs. Washington

Ertz’s fantasy relevance looks something like the Undertaker gif headed into Week 17. Summarily dismissed as washed, slow, hurt, spurned by his own team, replaced by a younger, better tight end, Ertz is back in the fantasy fold. In fact, he’ll be an easy top-12 tight end option this week if Dallas Goedert’s calf injury keeps him sidelined against Washington.

Goedert exited last week’s game early with the calf issue, giving Ertz the chance to operate as the Eagles No. 1 tight end against Dallas. His usage was encouraging: seven targets on 38 pass routes, the fifth most among tight ends in Week 16. Ertz had already seen an uptick in usage the week before against Arizona, running 36 routes to Goedert’s 35 and commanding seven targets to Goedert’s eight.

In his three pro starts, Jalen Hurts has favored his tight ends. Hurts has thrown 34 passes to Ertz and Goedert over those three games, a combined 34 percent target share. Each tight end has seen 17 looks from the rookie. If Goedert is out, Ertz is in for a potentially monster target share against Washington. Even with Goedert in the lineup, Ertz is viable.

The Football Team isn’t a screamingly great tight end matchup. It’s not a bad matchup either. Almost 22 percent of targets against Washington this year have gone to tight ends, which works out to 6.46 targets per game. Goedert and Ertz shredded the Football Team in Week 1, combining for 11 receptions on 16 targets, including two touchdowns. Ertz had one of those touchdowns on his three catches.

Don’t forget the narrative factor, for whatever it’s worth. Week 17 will likely make Ertz’s final game with the Eagles -- the end of a run in which he was one of the most consistent and productive tight ends in the NFL. Maybe, just maybe, Doug Pederson will want Ertz -- who’s available in half of leagues -- to go out with a hefty Week 17 stat line. It would hardly be the first time Ertz has gone berserk in Week 17.

Dan Arnold (ARI) at LA Rams

Arnold is only playable in the deepest league (or as a punt play in Week 17 DFS). He’s commanded a not-insignificant 13 percent of the team’s targets over their past three games, though his routes per game (22.66) and snap share (34 percent) over that stretch is a tad concerning. I should note that Arnold missed nearly a quarter of last week’s loss to the Niners while being evaluated for a concussion.

The Rams aren’t a hateful tight end matchup. They allow a 21.75 percent target share to the position, which is directly related to the LA secondary shutting down wide receivers throughout 2020. You may be old enough to remember Arnold catching two of his three targets for 63 yards and two scores against the Rams in Week 13. That’s not why I’m recommending him here, though it doesn’t hurt.

Tight ends are averaging 7.6 targets per game against the Rams, who allow one of the league’s lowest target shares to opposing receivers. If Kyler Murray starts and looks for ways to exploit the Rams Defense without throwing at the team’s standout corners, Arnold should at least get the opportunity to put up good numbers in the regular season’s final game.