Zach Ertz’s Summer of No Respect continued Tuesday with the release of Pro Football Focus’s tight end rankings.
The popular website ranked Ertz as only the league’s seventh-best tight end. The site didn’t even have him ranked as the best tight end on the Eagles. Dallas Goedert was just ahead of Ertz, in sixth.
The 49ers’ George Kittle was PFF’s top-ranked tight end, followed by the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce, the Bucs’ Rob Gronkowski, the Raiders’ Darren Waller, the Ravens’ Mark Andrews, and then Goedert and Ertz.
Last month, EA Sports came out with its player ratings for Madden NFL 21. Ertz was fourth, well behind Kittle, Kelce, and Gronkowski, who were given grades of 98, 97 and 95, respectively. Ertz received a 90 grade.
Ertz was a bit miffed by the disparity between his Madden grade and those given to Kittle and Kelce.
“I don’t try to make it about myself,” the 29-year-old Ertz said last week on a Zoom call with reporters. “But I do consider myself in that upper echelon of guys. In that same tier with those guys. I don’t mean any disrespect. But I think the guys in this building feel the same way about me.
“I’m never in the business of comparing people. I feel all three of us [Kittle, Kelce and himself] are at the top of our games and are perfect in the offenses we play in. We all have unique skill sets. We’ll all different with some similarities. Overall, I don’t think my game is any less than any of those guys'.”
Ertz’s 116 receptions in 2018 are the most ever by an NFL tight end. He followed that up with an 88-catch season last year, but many of his other numbers dropped, including his catch rate (from 74.4 to 65.2), his yards-per-target average (from 7.5 to 6.8), his first-down catches (from 72 to 50), and his yards-after-the-catch average (from 3.2 to 3.1).
PFF researcher Ben Linsey, who compiled the website’s tight end rankings, acknowledged that many people probably would rank Ertz third, behind only Kittle and Kelce. So why did he put him at No. 7?
“Primarily, he isn’t nearly as dynamic as some of these other guys with the ball in his hands,” Linsey wrote.
Linsey pointed out that since 2016, Ertz, a three-time Pro Bowler, has averaged just 3.3 yards after the catch, which ranks him 25th during that period, one spot behind an aging Antonio Gates.
“Sandwiched between Gates [36 years old at the start of this stretch] and Jason Witten [34 years old] is not where you want to be as one of the most productive tight ends in the NFL in your prime,” he wrote.
He pointed out that Ertz forced just 14 broken tackles in 356 receptions during that stretch.
“Ertz clearly does other things well, though,” Linsey wrote. “He does a good job of using leverage and footwork to create separation on his routes, and performs well in contested-catch situations when the separation isn’t there.”
Linsey on why he has Goedert ahead of Ertz: “Despite the receiving totals [Goedert had 58 catches last season but had a higher catch rate and yards-after-the-catch average than Ertz] pointing pretty clearly to Ertz being the better player in Philadelphia, it’s actually Goedert who graded out as the better receiver in 2019.
“Goedert’s size and athleticism make him dangerous in one-on-one situations, evident in his receiving grade against single coverage that ranked near the top of the list this past season.”
He pointed out Goedert’s impressive blocking ability. Goedert was one of just two tight ends — Kittle was the other — to whom PFF gave top-10 receiving and run-blocking grades. Goedert’s 81.4 run-blocking grade over his first two NFL seasons is second in the league among tight ends to Maxx Williams.