*The following fantasy football article is based on PPR -- point per reception -- scoring, as will all my article be, for I am The PPR Monster!*
In today's edition of Dueling Draftees we examine two potential studs in 2014 at the tight end position. While drafting Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, or Julius Thomas early may put you ahead of the rest of your league at the tight end spot, why use a first, second, or third round pick when you can wait and nab a player like Zach Ertz or Kyle Rudolph in the mid-to-late rounds and still have a consistent every week starter that can blossom into last years Jordan Cameron. Here is a look at Ertz and Rudolph and which one of the two should be selected first.
Zach Ertz - Philadelphia Eagles
Ertz is in the best offensive situation of these two ends. He has the best back in the NFL behind him in LeSean McCoy. He has the most innovative offensive minded coach in Chip Kelly turning him into an elite tight end. And he has the better quarterback, Nick Foles who had an insane 27-2 touchdown to interception ratio in 2013. In his days as a Stanford Cardinal, Ertz only improved each of his three seasons. Going from 16 receptions in his freshman year -5 of those 16 catches were for touchdowns- to 27 in his sophomore season, to a NCAA tight end high 69 in his final college season in 2012. In his rookie NFL season in 2012 he had pedestrian numbers for the year 36-469-4. However, in the second half of the year Ertz became the go to tight end for Kelly's offense.
He recorded 22 of his 36 catches -61%- over the final 8 games including all 4 of his touchdowns. Add to the fact that his numbers were virtually the same as the Eagles TE1 Brent Celek in the second half of the year (Ertz: 22-268-4, Celek: 18-288-4) and Ertz had as many 5+ target games in his final 8 as Celek did all year, it should be a lock that Ertz becomes the Eagles new TE1 in 2014.
Kyle Rudolph - Minnesota Vikings
While Zach Ertz may be in the better offense, Rudolph has his own secret weapon: Norv Turner. Ok maybe Turner isn't a secret anymore but he is known as somewhat of a "tight end whisperer." He turned both Antonio Gates and Jordan Cameron into stars at the position. Rudolph has the ability to become this year's Cameron. While he missed the final 8 games in 2013 due to a fractured foot, Rudolph was on pace for his second straight season of 150+ fantasy points -which would have placed him 11th for the second straight year- including setting career highs in receptions and yardage. Turner also has Adrian Peterson to keep opposing defenses honest, which will give Rudolph a lot of middle-of-the-field opportunities. Rudolph was also on pace for 92 targets -19% of the Vikings quarterbacks attempts- in 2013, which would have put him 3rd on the team only 14 behind team leader Greg Jennings. All that coupled with the fact that Rudolph is the biggest target Turner will have to work with (6'6" compared to Gates -6'4"- and Cameron -6'5"-) and unlike Brent Celek behind Ertz, there is no one pushing Rudolph (a combined 19 receptions in 5 seasons among his back ups) out of a job anytime soon.
Results: Both Ertz and Rudolph will become top 10 tight ends by years end in my opinion. Both have strong coaching situations in their cities. Both have stud running backs to help keep defenses in the box which means they should both see a lot of safety-valve-type looks. They both have the ability to run down the seem and have hands that can snatch balls thrown their way in traffic. Both stand 6'6" so they will be favorites in the red zone. When it comes down to it, Rudolph has the slight advantage with Turner's presence as the new offensive coordinator and poor tight end depth in Minnesota.