Mark Andrews

NFL 2020 tight end rankings: Could Zach Ertz miss the top-four cut?

NFL 2020 tight end rankings: Could Zach Ertz miss the top-four cut?

Zach Ertz has been an elite pass-catching tight end basically since 2014, his second season with the Eagles. His size, route-running, and athleticism makes him a near-impossible matchup for defenses.

But Ertz turns 30 this November, and he has a TE1-in-waiting sitting behind him on the depth chart in Dallas Goedert. Is 2020 the year we see him take a step out of the elite tight end ranks?

The folks over at Pro Football Focus think, even if it's not a big step, Ertz won't be a top four tight end in the NFL this season. They projected receiving totals, and instead of Ertz rounding out the top four, as most would expect, they have...

Rob Gronkowski?

Yep:

There's a lot to take in here. Let's look at some things that aren't Ertz.

For one, Mark Andrews at No. 1 would be quite a jump for the third-year tight end. He's had two great seasons to start his career, but the Ravens aren't a pass-happy offense. I don't see the yards piling up like this.

The Raiders' Darren Waller had 1,145 yards last year. It's possible he's a one-year wonder, and it's likely rookie Henry Ruggs III sees Waller get fewer targets, but having Gronkowski over Waller is... odd.

As for Gronk, he hasn't played a 16-game season since 2011, and he went for just 682 yards in his most recent NFL season. Is he well-rested enough to return to 2017 form? Maybe. But with stud wideouts like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin available for Tom Brady, there likely aren't enough targets in Tampa Bay to push Gronk to 999 yards.

Now, for Ertz. Ertz has reached 999 yards in a season just once: 1,163 yards in 2018. He saw his yards number tumble last year, but the whole team really took a step back, and Dallas Goedert became more comfortable in the offense. Ertz is still a stud until proven otherwise, and I think he's still a top-four tight end. 

Of course, with rookie Jalen Reagor catching passes, Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson both ostensibly healthy, and Goedert continuing to grow, Ertz could either see his pass-catching opportunities get easier... or see his targets dry up. So it's not unthinkable that he finishes with, say, 825 yards in 2020.

But I certainly don't think he'll finish lower than a recently-unretired Gronk.

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2018 NFL draft prospect watch: Now real matchups begin in college football

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2018 NFL draft prospect watch: Now real matchups begin in college football

Now that we're past a bunch of the cupcake games, a few interesting matchups will take place today in college football.

And inside those games, we'll get to see some interesting matchups featuring several 2018 NFL draft prospects.

Before watching any of the big games tonight, familiarize yourself with the names below. One of them could help the Eagles in 2018 and beyond.

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 5 Oklahoma (7:30 p.m., ABC)

Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State, junior (6-1/225)
Simply put, Baker is a stud. As a sophomore, Baker recorded 86 tackles (9 1/2 for a loss), 3 1/2 sacks and two interceptions. Baker's biggest strength is his athleticism. He's all over the field and excels in coverage. He's the ideal 'backer for today's pass-friendly game. Today should be a fun test against Baker Mayfield and the Sooners' explosive offense. 

Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma, junior (6-5/254)
Andrews' numbers from 2016 won't blow you away, but he showed in Oklahoma's blowout win over UTEP why he's getting serious draft buzz. Andrews hauled in seven catches for 134 yards for a ridiculous 19.1 yards per catch. Andrews has flashed seriously ability to create after the catch and should be one of the first tight ends off the board come April.

No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 13 Auburn (7 p.m., ESPN)

Deon Cain, WR, Clemson, junior (6-1/190)
Cain is arguably the best receiving prospect in the 2018 draft class. Playing second fiddle to first-round pick Mike Williams last season, Cain posted 38 catches for 724 yards and nine touchdowns. Cain lacks the size of his former teammate Williams, but he is much more explosive. He only made two catches in the Tigers' lopsided win over Kent State, but one of them was a 61-yard touchdown. Clemson lost some serious weapons to the NFL in 2017 and Cain appears to be well on his way.

Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn, junior (6-1/203)
After being selected to the All-SEC freshman team, Davis struggled in his sophomore season. It's also been revealed that he was dealing with a series of nagging injuries all season. Davis seems to fit the NFL prototype with his tall frame and long arms. He's shown an ability to be physical and jam receivers at the line. Now that he's healthy, it'll be interesting to see what happens when Cain forces him to turn and run.

No. 14 Stanford vs. No. 6 USC (8:30 p.m., FOX)

Bryce Love Jr., RB, Stanford, junior (5-10/196)
(OK, so I'm cheating a little bit with this "matchup," but it should be a lot of fun to watch these two try to match each other with big plays.)

With Love in the fold, the Cardinal won't feel the loss of first-round pick Christian McCaffrey quite as much. Love is similar in stature and explosiveness to the now Carolina Panther. Splitting time last season, Love ran for 779 yards on just 112 carries (seven yards a carry). He looked unstoppable in Stanford's 62-7 win over Rice. Love carried the ball 13 times for 180 yards and a touchdown (I'll save you the math: that's an absurd 13.8 yards a carry). 

Ronald Jones Jr., RB, USC, junior (6-0/200)
Speaking of explosive, Jones might be the most explosive back in the class. Jones has rushed for 900 yards in each of his two seasons for the Trojans. He seems well on his way to topping that mark once again after rushing for 159 yards and three touchdowns in USC's opening win against Western Michigan. Like Love, Jones is a bit undersized but he's a dangerous player in space. I'd like to see both players do a little more damage in the passing game. They're both capable, the numbers just aren't there as of yet.