For much of the offseason many have viewed the eventual departure of Zach Ertz as a foregone conclusion. I resisted, but now that we've reached June 1st (the date when it becomes easier to cut or trade Ertz) the buzz is picking up that Ertz won't be an Eagle for much longer. With that in mind, it only seems prudent to project the Eagles offense without him, if only to see where the major differences lie.
The first, and most obvious difference is for Dallas Goedert. While I've been making the case that Goedert was the best Eagles tight end since 2019, the team has not behaved that way. Even last year, whens Ertz battled injuries and his efficiency fell off a cliff, the veteran still saw a larger target share. Once Ertz is no longer on the team, Goedert bumps from a mediocre 13% target share up to 18%, which puts him in the second or third tier at tight end. And there's still considerably more upside from there.
There were five games in 2020 Goedert played that Ertz either missed or played less than half the snaps. In those games Goedert averaged six targets, 53 yards, and 12.1 PPR Fantasy points per game. Those number put him in line with Mark Andrews at TE4 last year. Since May 1st, Goedert is being drafted multiple rounds behind T.J. Hockenson and Kyle Pitts, which makes him one fo the top tight end values once Ertz is gone.
The other impact I would expect is more targets for the wide receivers and running backs. DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor both get a small boost, and Miles Sanders could too assuming the team doesn't see Kenneth Gainwell as their Nyheim Hines. I would not expect the loss of Ertz to hamper Jalen Hurts much at all. Philadelphia quarterbacks, as a whole, were better when throwing to almost anyone other than Ertz in 2020.
As for the veteran tight end, it's all about landing spot. If he lands on the Colts or Chargers, he'll be a borderline No.1 based solely on the volume we'd expect him to receive. But that volume is key. Ertz hasn't averaged better than 7.5 yards per target since 2016 and over the past two seasons he's been one of the least efficient starting tight ends in the NFL. It may be that he's just over the hill, which may be why the Eagles haven't found a trade partner yet.
A few other notes before we get to the actual projections:
- I have no idea what to project for the Patriots tight ends. The past two years they've completely abandoned the position, but the fact that they signed both Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith indicates a significant change. The problem is projecting which, if either of them, will the 1A. If it's an even or unpredictable split there may not be enough targets for either.
- I would really like to be higher on Cole Kmet, but the Bears are making it difficult. They cut legitimately productive players this offseason in the name of keeping Jimmy Graham on the roster. If Graham is cut, Kmet's fortunes would change like Goedert's, to a lesser degree.
- It may look weird to see O.J. Howard ahead of Rob Gronkowski, but Howard was outplaying him until he tore his ACL. If Howard is ready for the start of the season I expect him to be the best Buccaneers tight end.