Most leagues aren’t won or lost in the early rounds of your draft, outside of injury. What can truly transform your team from fantasy contenders to fantasy champions, are the middle and late rounds in your draft. This is where being ahead of the curve on breakouts or passing on those with hype who you believe won’t live up to their ADP are crucial. This series will examine one player on each team that will be drafted in those rounds and examine the case of whether they are worth their ADP.
Zach Ertz, TE
People thought prior to his trade to Arizona, last year, that Ertz was a player on the downside of his career. That his fantasy relevance had largely gone as he had been replaced on the Eagles by Dallas Goedert after a 36-335-1 season in 2020 wherein he only played 11 games and had a career low 50% catch rate. The trade to Arizona and the opportunity that came with it, seemed to bring him back to fantasy relevance starting with a 3-66-1 performance in his first game with the Cardinals. He had more than 4 targets in all but one game with the Cardinals and that increased volume led to an average of 11.8 PPR PPG during those 11 games. His catch rate improved from 58% in Philly to 69% in Arizona with the improvement in accuracy from Jalen Hurts to Kyler Murray. This buoyed him to a 5th place finish in total PPR points among TEs. However, the offseason addition of Marquise Brown seemed to spell the end of that increased opportunity and the end of his fantasy relevance as he, historically, has not been a TE with a large number of touchdowns that most TEs rely on. DeAndre Hopkins suspended for the first 6 games and the departures of Chase Edmonds and Christian Kirk means that Ertz will likely be a factor in the early season. I believe a 23 % target share is realistic in the first 6 weeks given the familiarity with the offense and the 157 vacated targets within the offense. Given his ADP of TE9 and 100th overall, his early season would likely be worth it for the first six weeks. I project in the first 6 weeks of the season he will average 14 PPR PPG and likely be top 6 TE. Although, beyond that, fantasy owners would likely either need to have a early season waiver wire stash or be willing to accept steep regression from Ertz or stream weekly TEs. I project his target share to fall to about 12% with the arrival of Hopkins, who I expect to see positive regression from last year after his injury and other circumstances that led him to be more TD dependent than he had been at any point in his career.
Ertz being drafted at TE9 gives him value but breakout candidates are being drafted behind him, like Cole Kmet and Irv Smith Jr. Kmet especially, will likely finish well above Ertz in targets and his ceiling is much higher being the possible second option for a team that will likely trail early and often. If you want to draft Ertz and believe that the late season resurgence last year was more of a sign to things to come rather than it was an offense with a lot of opportunity, I would suggest drafting 2 TEs and drafting one in the later rounds, like David Njoku or Gerald Everett, who are fliers, but will likely show within those first 6 weeks, if they are truly going to follow the hype of the offseason. Especially Everett, who should see high value targets. Another strategy would be to draft Ertz and then draft Hopkins and replace Ertz elite early season TE production with elite production from the WR3/Flex, as people seem to fade suspended players. Alas, I am fading Ertz in non-TE premium drafts outside of him falling to the 11th or 12th round as his current ADP has him early 9th. I will gladly draft Kmet 36 picks later and take the lower floor and higher ceiling, rather than streaming TE and chasing TDs and week to week production. TEs in fantasy, you either chase TDs or opportunity, as those with both, are likely your top 40 draft pick elite TEs. Draft upside RBs and WRs in rounds 9-11. That has a better chance of getting you to your championship aspirations and helping your team be its strongest at the end of the year.
Projection: 105 targets, 64 catches, 695 yards, 6 TD
Would Draft Ahead of Mike Gesicki / Irv Smith Jr / Robert Tonyan
Tier Above Ertz Dallas Goedert / Cole Kmet
Draft Range: Late 11th/ Early 12th