Vick: Ertz will be one of NFL's best tight ends
As a rookie, Ertz was solid, but his numbers certainly do not pop off the page. In 16 games (two starts), Ertz notched just 36 catches for 469 yards and four touchdowns. It is worth noting, however, that Ertz found most of his success in the second half of the year, racking up 25 receptions, 290 yards, and five touchdowns across the Eagles' final nine games (including the playoffs).
"I was utilized more in the game plan," Ertz said of his second half improvement. "One of the big things was that I was used out wide, in the slot, in the three-point, obviously. I think the game just kind of slowed down, as well."
Ertz seems more comfortable on the field and more confident in his game, but he is not the only one who thinks that he's ready to do some big things. Beat writer Jimmy Kempski said earlier this month that he expects Ertz to "have a much bigger role in 2014, possibly as a starter." In addition, teammate Michael Vick appears to be extremely high on the young tight end, saying that "in time, he will be one of the best tight ends in this game."
"There are three players that I told that they would be great players in this league," Vick said. "I always told Alge Crumpler that he was going to be great, I always told Shady McCoy that he was going to be a great player in this league, and I always told Roddy White. And now I'm saying Zach Ertz."
If those are truly the only three players that Vick has said will be great prior to Ertz, he's got a pretty fantastic track record. Those three players have combined for ten Pro Bowls and three first-team All-Pro selections. Crumpler was one of the league's premier tight ends for years, making the Pro Bowl each season from 2003-06. McCoy remains a huge name and just wrapped up an All-Pro season with a rushing title. White's 2013 campaign was marred by injuries, but he was a Pro Bowler from 2008-11 and an All-Pro in 2010.
What makes Vick's comment even crazier is that, at the time he said it, Ertz had just five catches on his NFL career.
Coming out of college, Ertz was lauded for his combination of size and smooth athleticism, as well as his toughness after the catch. Improving his consistency as a run blocker could go a long way in head coach Chip Kelly's run-heavy offense. Ertz finished with some of the best numbers among rookie tight ends, finishing fourth in receptions, second in yards, and first in touchdowns.
Ertz is pleased with his rookie campaign, but knows that he has plenty of room to improve. "I think it was a good baseline first season for me, but I'm not satisfied," Ertz said. "I'm really looking forward to next year already, hitting the offseason swinging."
Ertz will be a name to monitor over the offseason for fantasy football purposes, as he could end up being a great sleeper pick/breakout candidate.