Fantasy Debate: Zach Ertz vs Mark Andrews
Mark Andrews is currently the third tight end off the board in My Fantasy League drafts, with Zach Ertz right behind him as TE4. In this debate, Chris Allen will argue for Ertz, while Jennifer Eakins takes the side of Andrews.
The Case for Zach Ertz
Chris: I’ve come around on Zack Ertz in 2020 for two reasons: his ADP compared to his projected target share has made him a greater value, and he should maintain his role as the primary tight end in Philadelphia keeping him in the upper echelon of the position.
I’ve harped on opportunity cost in the past. Drafters should be constantly considering who they’re giving up when selecting their players. It’s especially true for onesie positions given starting roster requirements. Regardless, fantasy managers are presented with choices when electing to acquire either tight end. Let’s see which choice is easier.
Mark Andrews has an ADP of 31 +/- 0.2. Players going slightly before and after Andrews include Melvin Gordon, Mike Evans, Jonathan Taylor, and Kenny Golladay. All with clear paths to significant fantasy production in 2020. And, to be fair, Ertz isn’t too far behind. His 33 +/- 1.0 ADP is still significant, but who are we passing up? Le’Veon Bell, Amari Cooper, James Conner, and David Johnson headline the list of players following the Eagles’ tight end. The decision between Ertz and Andrews should be clear. While there’s obvious potential with players like Connor and Johnson, the range of outcomes becomes wider. Their outcomes aren’t as clear. Also, in practicality, Andrews is more likely to be taken at the start of the third round to stack him with Lamar Jackson (ADP of 20.4) widening the gap between the two tight ends. Draft slot and previous picks may dictate the outcome forcing your hand in drafts. But if I can get a high-volume tight end and avoid sacrificing opportunity cost, I’ll take it. The ‘high-volume’ descriptor takes us to my next point.
We can look at high-volume in two ways. First, the Eagles’ offense itself. With Carson Wentz as the team’s primary passer, Philadelphia has averaged a 66.5% passing rate in neutral situations (7th highest over the last 4 seasons). Baltimore has a 59.1% neutral passing rate over that same span. Lamar’s emergence in 2019 only makes it worse (55.6%). Now, remember, neutral passing rate is a partial proxy for how teams behave in the red zone. In short, teams that pass more often when games are close will continue to do so in scoring situations. The data jibes with this idea. Philadelphia had a 53.8% red-zone passing rate in neutral situations while Baltimore sat at 34.4%. But this is already known. We know Philadelphia has relied on the passing game to boost their offense compared to Baltimore. But, let’s zoom in on the tight end position specifically.
Tight ends received 43.6% of the Ravens’ total targets in 2019. It was the highest rate in the league with Philadelphia right behind them at 38.9%. Those rates largely translated into the red zone. Tight ends for Baltimore earned 42.4% of the red zone targets while Eagles’ tight ends garnered 39.5%. So here, Andrews has the edge. Let’s zoom in again. Ertz wound up with 25% of the team's red-zone targets while coexisting with Dallas Goedert. Andrews had 22.7%. A minor delta between the two, but important in the greater context that Ertz is still a primary option on the team. Ertz has also maintained a 23% target share with Wentz since 2016. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has drafted multiple receivers and running backs and signed notable free agents to aid their receiving group. Through it all, Ertz has continually shown up in the elite tier of tight ends.
I get it, though. Mark Andrews is coming off a 10-touchdown season while playing on a Super Bowl contending team that just jettisoned one of its other tight ends. But if I’m considering an early tight end in my drafts, I’ll leverage the market and aim for Ertz who has similar upside at a slightly cheaper cost.
The Case for Mark Andrews
Jennifer: As a late-rounder in 2019, Mark Andrews was a league-winner for those who were in on the Baltimore tight end. Now that he’s on everyone’s fantasy radar at a much higher cost, is he worth drafting over Zach Ertz at their current ADPs? I say yes and here’s why.
Andrews finished last year as TE4 in half-PPR scoring, catching 64 balls for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns in his second year in the league. At his position, the Raven was seventh in receptions, fifth in receiving yards and his 10 touchdowns tied for second overall in the NFL. Yes, Ertz was right there with him and their main difference was in the number of end zone dances, but one thing that could separate the two this season is playing time.
All the top tight ends from last season (Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Darren Waller and Ertz), were on the field for more than 815 plays with snap counts of 86% or higher, with Kelce and Ertz logging over 950 snaps each. Andrews was in the game for just 476 (44%).
That’s fewer than half of Ertz’s snaps and comes in under both Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst in playing time, who both suited up at tight end for Baltimore in 2019. With Hurst down in Atlanta and the chemistry between Lamar Jackson and Andrews dialed in, we should see an increased snap count for arguably the best pass-catcher on the Ravens.
Boyle will most likely see the highest snap count again due to his run-blocking prowess, but with Hurst gone, those two-tight end sets Baltimore loves to roll with could see Andrews on the field for close to 200 more snaps. At 675 or so snaps, that could mean 120 targets for Andrews, which would have put him as TE3 last season in balls thrown to. Hurst vacated 39 targets, so the bump of 20+ is certainly a possibility.
Andrews was deadly in the red zone in 2019 and there’s no reason to think this year will be any different. Baltimore is a highly run-efficient offense that opened things up for Andrews last year in the play-action game. Both Lamar Jackson and Andrews led their positional groups in passing and receiving touchdowns in the red zone, with Andrews nabbing all seven of his receptions for scores.
Moving on from just a safety valve for Jackson to a legit threat, Andrews should not only outperform Ertz this season, but is set up to possibly take down Kelce and end the 2020 season as the overall TE1.
Speaking of Ertz, my main knock on him for 2020 is the inconsistency of the Eagles offense. Last year, he put up eight weeks with single-digit half-PPR points, with the other half double-digit performances. In redraft, that will drive a fantasy manager crazy.
Let’s not forget he also has to compete with Dallas Goedert for targets. Last season, four of Ertz’s worst five games came when Goedert scored 10 or more fantasy points and there’s no reason to believe Carson Wentz won’t use both in a similar manner in 2020.
In 4for4’s projections, Andrews is expected to score 195 points in half-PPR formats with Ertz coming in at just 162. With just one round between the two, I prefer the guy with more upside in an offense on the rise, as opposed to a guy in a shared situation in an unpredictable offense.