So I had some time on my hands earlier this week and since I enjoyed writing the last one I thought I might try again with a new one. Originally I was going to look at the Defensive Tackles but I soon discovered my brain would not allow me to concentrate on snap after snap of DT's so I decided instead to take a look at this years TE class. In particular I thought i'd cover the main 4(Zach Ertz, Tyler Eifert, Gavin Escobar and Travis Kelce). Now a couple of things I left out in the previous one. For a start I don't read scouting reports on any of these guys. Simply put this is purely my thoughts on each guy.
Maddening. Zach Ertz has got to be one of the single most disappointing players I'll see this year. For where he's been mocked and where he's been ranked it's beyond comprehension when I watch his tape. When I watch TE tape I set out 3 key things I look for: Hands,Routes and Blocks. With these guys I came in looking for good ability at all aspects or at least show the potential to improve but with Ertz it's he's really really average if not bad at one or more of these things. It's nuts to watch this guy play. His hands can be a mix of good or covered in lube. His route running seems downright sloppy at times while at others it can be what makes the play. His blocking seems wayward and lackadaisical. I know this may seem strong a bit a forward but It's how I felt when I watched him I felt a distinct lack of effort was being put in on a number of plays.
Listen there are moments when there are lots of positives with his play. For example in the game against Oregon we see one play where he lines up against the safety in a run play. Ball get's snapped and Ertz jacks up and drives his man 10 yards down field, it's a impressive piece of skill. This skill and talent is relevant in a roll out Stanford ran where the QB Hogan rolls out to his right, Ertz rolls out with him and shadows his movement. Nunes throws a little in front of Ertz. Ertz makes a great diving catch to his right keeping his eyes and hands on the ball the entire way. A perfect example of Ertz's issues when it comes to finishing the play comes with two versions of the same play.
Ertz starts in the TE slot on the right side. His assignment is first to provide a quick block to stop the outside rusher before breaking out into the flat to provide Nunes with a check down option. First time this play get's run he whiffs completely on the block. Ertz still rolls out but he's given his QB considerably less time to make a play, not only that but the edge rusher has a clear pass to the QB. The QB throws to Ertz while under pressure. Ertz catches the ball behind the line of scrimmage and only makes a 2 yard gain. The following play they do this again only this time Ertz holds his block before rolling out. He catches and makes his way up field for a 6-7 yard gain. Simple effort plays like that are what annoy me so much about him.
Ertz is not a great blocker I doubt he will be a good blocker. He just lacks the ability to get out, find his man(Can't stress how many times I saw him come off the line of scrimmage and just stumble about looking for someone to block) and then get after them until the whistle goes. So what does he offer in terms of route running and pass catching? Well in terms of route running it's just a mess. He doesn't seem to be able to garner any sort of separation unless the defense is in zone coverage( Example of this is in the game against Notre Dame) otherwise the safety or linebacker that's covering him just blankets him for the most part. An example I'd like to highlight is from the USC game. Stanford's in the red zone and Ertz is lined up on the right side of the O-line. Stanford run play action and the QB(Nunes) rolls out to his right. Now here's what irks me. Either the route Ertz is running is a bend route by design or it's a post route that Ertz has completely messed up on and turned into a bend route. Either way he doesn't break away from his man. Admittedly on this play the DB has committing PI but regardless Ertz just didn't separate from his man. Okay so his route running is not what it should be so let's move onto hands.
USC game again. They line Ertz up in the slot on the left side. Shock of shocks a lovely little move off the snap allows him to get separation. Nunes throws it up for him to make a play. Ertz turns, locates and then watches as the ball goes straight through his out stretched hands and hits him right in the grill. This has been a shambles so far so I'll leave this on a positive note. In the game against USC he scores a touchdown which shows all his skills and talents. Starts the play off in the left slot against the safety. Breaks out and uses a double move to completely loses his man and makes a grab before making another USC defender miss and dive into the end zone for a 40 yard TD play. This was the best Zach Ertz play I could find over all three games I watched.
*It should be mentioned that Nunes is a horrific QB. So many balls that were either under thrown or over thrown or just miles from their target.
So some of you may or may not remember Notre Dame's opening game of last season being held in Ireland against Navy. Now I was at that game and I saw this guy live. I'm convinced I was looking at the next great pass catching Tight End.
First off he was a human mis-match at the college level. A point the offensive coordinator pressed by lining up in a plethora of different positions along the line of scrimmage. We see him out wide,in the slot, on the right and left side of the line of scrimmage even in the full back position just behind the offensive line. What stands out for me is his athleticism. I originally didn't have him pegged as a super athletic Jimmy Graham type TE but he just seems to get up field in a remarkable hurry. It shows multiple times throughout the tape as he keeps pace with the corner backs while seemingly galloping past linebackers and most safeties. Now I'll be brief about his blocking because there's other aspects that get me far more excited but I will say this. He puts himself about nicely against the run creating holes rather well and sealing the edge on multiple occasions. It's in the passing game where he struggles and it showed against Stanford where he struggled to contain Chase Thomas on multiple occasions. One in particular that stands out is when Thomas applies a picture perfect swim move and Eifert is left dumb-founded in his wake.
Eifert's real strength comes from his terrific body control and pass catching ability, especially in traffic. It reminds me of DeAndre Hopkins but on a bigger and perhaps better scale. The route running isn't always the sharpest but it doesn't need to be because there are very few people that can disrupt him once he's zoned in. It's why you hear phrases such as he's a great ''jump ball'' player. He is for the exact reason that his size, body control and hands are so good.
An example of this can be seen in the game against Purdue(It's the very first play on the tape). Eifert starts out wide left against the corner. Now Eifert doesn't separate from the corner due to first off PI(It isn't called due to the catch being made). 5 yards into the route and Eifert's been held onto the entire way. The ball now get's thrown to Eifert's back shoulder. Eifert's now got to re-adjust(with the corner clinging onto him), turn his body around and locate the ball. He does this perfectly. He holds off his man, who's simply given up the notion of defending Eifert and now just wants a piggyback, and makes a fantastic one handed grab. If I ever remember anything from the game I saw against Navy I'll remember Stephon Tuitt's 77 Yard Fumble Return for a TD and Tyler Eifert's insane end zone grab for a TD. While I couldn't find the clip of this online It turns out he did this more then once. Purdue game again, red zone and Eifert's in one on one coverage against the corner on the right hand side. First thing I noticed as soon as the ball was snapped, the safety starts moving towards Eifert's side of the end zone. It's not double coverage otherwise he would have pressed him at the line with his corner so it's zone coverage. Just like the previous clip Eifert doesn't separate from his man but this doesn't stop the throw towards Eifert. It's a straight up jump ball situation with the corner committing PI(It get's called after the catch) and Eifert just reaches up and snags to out of the air for a TD. Just phenomenal concentration and handling ability. Eifert is a un-naturally talented player. He's got the ability to run all the routes, line up anywhere and catch anything that get's thrown his way. I mean i'm really struggling to see how you can stop this guy.
Now for any of you that may have heard of any comparisons between Kelce and a certain Rob Gronkowski let me put those to rest right now. Kelce may be 6'6 and 260lbs but he's not Gronk. Kelce is more of a James Casey then a Gronkowski. Allow me to explain. He's a fantastic blocker. The Belk Bowl tape against Duke will confirm this. We see multiple times where he's lined up in the lead blocker position on one side only to cut back and provide fantastic back blocks in both the running and passing game. He's physical and strong and attacks straight on the line. A perfect example of this is against Duke where Cincinnati are backed up on their own goal line. He starts on the right side in the lead blocker role and as the ball snaps he cuts all the way back and along with his RT provides a double team block that seals the edge and allows his RB to make it into the second level.
As for his receiving game it's not a finished article but he's incredibly solid at route running and pass catching. He also shows great potential and promise in these fields. The game against UConn shows us a fantastic piece of route running where he pulls a little stop and go move before accelerating up field to make a catch for the TD. In the game against Duke we see his ability to make a catch and then shrug off his tackler before accelerating up field. He's hands are solid and he shows great potential to improve . He's a solid player who's a fantastic blocker. After watching the tape I feel convinced this guy would be perfect for Houston. He's like Casey but a better blocker. To me he's a game changing H-back that offers a ton of versatility. He'll block for your back and catch passes in all areas of the field.
The further down the TE list the more and more you're looking at blocking TE's instead of pass catching TE's. Escobar is a solid all round prospect. Solid blocker to go with an super rangy athletic build but I do have some issues about his pass catching ability. Just like most of the other TE's on this list he lines up in a wide variety of different positions on the line of scrimmage. He'll start on the right side of the line before going in motion and line up in the FB position in the off-set I formation, so he's good enough to be able to be placed anywhere on the line and play well in any position. In order for Escobar to be effective as a blocker he's got to get at his man early and stay on him. Too many times I see him let his man bounce off him and then slip away instead of getting after his man and take him out of the play. For example we see 3 examples at the start of the WSU game where he has passes bounce off his hands or just whiffs on them completely. Other times we see him make phenomenal grabs like in the game against WSU where he breaks down the sideline and makes a fantastic grab for the TD. Again in the Michigan game we see seam route where the ball get's tipped but he maintains concentration and makes a terrific grab.
There's very little I can add regards to this guy. His routes were restricted and the one's he did run need fine tuning. I'd also like to see him add start to throw his considerable weight around. Too many times I saw his routes get jumped or not shield the ball away from the tackler. He's a prospect for sure, a super talented one no doubt but one that has a great hands and terrific measurables at 6'6 and 255lbs. He just needs some refining that's all.
I love Margus Hunt. His Compass Bowl tape are just phenomenal. His athleticism,strength and length just make him a unstoppable force. He looks for that 1 on 1 against the outside tackle and abuses it all day and then uses his great speed to finish the play. I look at Hunt and I see a rawer more athletic version of J.J Watt. That's not a joke. I like Hunt that much. He's got to improve his arsenal in regards to adding a spin along with a club and rip move to go along with his much utilized swim move.
Also got to watch some Bjoern Werner tape also. Loving his instincts. Smells out the ball and makes greats plays. Shows in the multiple knockdown passes he has at the line of scrimmage. Very adaptable also. Saw him drop into coverage and make plays. His pass rush is almost self-explanatory. It's solid it's dependable and it's what makes him one of the best pass rushers in this class. Particularly liked his ability to bend around his blockers. I'd like him in either role as a 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB. He's versatile enough to be able to pull off both.
Should be able to do one more of these before I head back to college. Still un-decided as to what it may be on but nevertheless I'll start work on it soonish. Hope you guys enjoy this one.