During the 2019 offseason, the top three tight ends in fantasy football were generally considered to be Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Zach Ertz. However, Mark Andrews took the league by storm last season and is now the consensus TE3 by average draft position. Andrews might be the new hot commodity, but Ertz is in a better position to succeed in 2020.
Draft Zach Ertz Over Mark Andrews in Fantasy Football
The Case for Zach Ertz
Zach Ertz isn’t the flashiest player and isn’t the third-best tight end in real football. However, fantasy football is all about identifying production, which isn’t necessarily the same as identifying talent. The most important thing for fantasy is target share, and Ertz has one of the safest shares of any tight end in the league.
Continuity matters more than ever this season, and Ertz has a fantastic rapport with quarterback Carson Wentz. Since Wentz took over in 2016, Ertz has averaged 127 targets per season and has never seen fewer than 106. It’s worth noting that this connection has grown stronger with time, as he has a combined 291 targets over the past two seasons.
Historically, Ertz tends to go away when the Philadelphia Eagles load up on wide receiver talent. Fortunately for Ertz, Philadelphia’s wide receivers leave a lot to be desired. Marquise Goodwin opted out, Alshon Jeffery is on the PUP, DeSean Jackson is a walking injury risk, and Jalen Reagor is an untested rookie entering the league in a shortened offseason. Carson Wentz will need to throw the ball somewhere, and Ertz should be the top target in this offense. Another 150+ target season is well within the realm of possibility here.
Ertz isn’t a red zone monster by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s more than capable of making his way into the endzone. Ertz has averaged seven touchdowns per season over the past two years and is a safe bet to finish with a solid 5-8 touchdowns. This red zone security combined with his high target share should give him decent odds of finishing as the TE3.
The Case Against Mark Andrews
Mark Andrews is an insanely talented tight end, but he carries too much risk to be the TE3. After successfully calling my shot on his untapped potential last year, I’m taking a step back this year. Last year, Andrews finished as the TE5 on the back of a 10-touchdown season. Andrews’ touchdowns accounted for a staggering 28.7% of his overall production, which should be a red flag for fantasy owners everywhere.
Touchdowns are infamously unstable from season to season, and Andrews is facing tons of negative regression. Last year, Andrews saw 14 targets and managed to turn those into seven touchdowns. That pace is simply unsustainable over a long enough sample, no matter how good you are. Even if you believe in Andrews’ ability to keep scoring at an above-average rate, you have to bet against Lamar Jackson. Last year, the unanimous MVP threw a touchdown on a staggering 9.0% of his pass attempts. By comparison, Patrick Mahomes threw touchdowns on 8.6% of his passes in 2018. Even if Jackson regresses to a 6% touchdown rate (still very good), that means a notable dip for Mark Andrews. There’s a real chance that he only scores five or six touchdowns in 2020, which means the difference between him and Ertz comes down to targets.
Despite breaking out in a big way, Mark Andrews didn’t see the field as much as you’d expect last year. The former third-round pick played in just 41.4% of the offensive snaps, and never saw more than a 55% snap share. Hayden Hurst is no longer in Baltimore, so that should theoretically lead to more playing time. However, Baltimore used Hurst primarily as a blocker, as he only ran 143 routes and saw 39 targets. Last year, Hurst and Andrews combined for 139 targets. Zach Ertz, on his own, had 135. Losing Hurst probably just means that Andrews will see more time in the trenches, and that carries no value for fantasy football.
Why You Should Draft Zach Ertz Over Mark Andrews
Don’t hear what I’m not saying – both players should have great seasons and finish near the top of their position. However, Zach Ertz is the safer bet for a higher finish. Ertz has no real competition for targets in a high-volume offense, an established rapport with his quarterback, and high odds of 5-8 touchdowns. He’s always on the field and should lead the Eagles in targets.
Andrews, meanwhile, is a little too touchdown-dependent to take as the TE3. Almost 30% of his fantasy points came from touchdowns last year, and both he and his quarterback are due for some negative regression. While Andrews is a key part of Baltimore’s passing attack, he doesn’t see the field as much as you’d like. Even with Hayden Hurst out of the picture, it’s hard to see Andrews receiving the massive uptick in targets required to offset the inevitable touchdown regression.
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