Week 12 in review: Zach Ertz could be a top-15 pick

November 18th, 2012 | Written by Rob Staton

Zach Ertz had a big day against Oregon, could be a top-15 pick

Note: I wrote an article for Field Gulls this week titled, ‘Seahawks draft focus: Potential 2013 targets’. Check it out by clicking here.

The first pass catcher off the board next year could be Stanford tight end Zach Ertz. He’s not a freak of nature like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski or Vernon Davis. But at 6-6 and around 250lbs, he’s a big target and will make plays. Ertz is a terrific run blocker and made several key plays in Stanford’s big 17-14 win over Oregon. He consistently puts his body on the line to break big gains and teams can use him for any play call. He and fellow tight end Levine Toilolo regularly lined up as Stanford’s only receivers against the Ducks, including in the games biggest play for a Cardinal touchdown with 90 seconds to go. Quarterback Kevin Hogan threw a fade to the left and Ertz made an acrobatic catch in tight coverage.

Losing Andrew Luck to the NFL was an inevitable blow for Stanford, but one of the main reasons they’ve stayed competitive is due to guys like Ertz. He’s been a reliable pass catcher all year, recording 11 catches for 106 yards against the Ducks to take him to 747 yards for the year with six scores. If you’re the Miami Dolphins and looking to build around Ryan Tannehill, you have to consider this guy. There isn’t a can’t-miss receiver option early in round one, while some of the better offensive lineman might be off the board by the the time the Dolphins pick. With his ability to line up outside and as a key blocker, Ertz could be a top-15 choice next April.

The race to be the #1 overall pick remains wide open. The top three 2013 eligible quarterbacks all endured further difficulties this week. Matt Barkley picked up a shoulder injury, threw two more picks and suffered a fourth defeat of the season – this time to fierce rival UCLA. Geno Smith lost his fifth straight game against Oklahoma and also had two more interceptions. Tyler Wilson’s miserable season continued with a 45-14 beat down from Mississippi State, including… guess what? Two picks.

Barkley’s swansong is quickly becoming a nightmare. One or two defeats and a solid bowl game probably would’ve justified his return for a final year, even if it was below expectations. USC entered the year as the AP’s #1 ranked team. They’re drifting towards ending the season unranked. Notre Dame visit the Trojans next week knowing a victory gets them in the BCS Championship game. Barkley might not even play due to injury and no amount of school records will make up for this disappointing season. Lane Kiffin and his coaching staff have a lot to answer for – they’ve done a terrible job this year. The consequence is Barkley throwing more picks than even his freshman season, a bad defense and a team playing completely within itself.

Smith started the year on fire with five straight wins, throwing 24 touchdowns and no interceptions in the process. Since then? Five defeats, eleven touchdowns and five interceptions. He’s been streaky, showing a few concerning traits that cropped up last year too. He sometimes struggles to progress through reads, forcing passes into tight areas and trusting his arm too much. For such a mobile quarterback he’s not terribly elusive and doesn’t often extend plays. The nature of the offense at West Virginia is the same as Oklahoma State’s where Dana Holgorsen previously coached. With such a deep quarterback drop and a spread out field, Smith is essentially encouraged to throw for power rather than touch. He’s a hard working, legit NFL prospect. But is he a top pick who’s going to save a bad team?

Tyler Wilson is a gun slinger who takes chances. He’s surprisingly mobile and can make plays with his feet. However, he’s made a lot of bad decisions this year. A lot of this has to be blamed on the chaotic situation at Arkansas and there’s no doubting Wilson would’ve had a tighter season with Bobby Petrino staring down his neck from the sideline. However, this is the tape scouts have to look at. He’s only around 6-1/6-2 tall and has a very slingy release point which will cause some concern. At times there’s a little Jimmy Clausen to his throwing motion, although Wilson is a much more natural passer. Like Barkley he’s thrown twice as many interceptions this year than last. Scouts will also question his decision to slam his team mates following the Alabama defeat – a game he didn’t take part in due to injury. He got a little too emotional there.

With the three quarterbacks all struggling, there’s no automatic #1 pick this year. Barkley or Smith could take it if a team like Kansas City decides it needs to build around a new signal caller. The $22m guaranteed over four years is not terribly problematic and the high reward of finding a franchise quarterback makes it a worthwhile gamble. What about alternatives?

Damontre Moore could go first overall – he has 12.5 sacks for Texas A&M this year and looks every bit a top NFL pass rusher who can feature in any defensive scheme. Another Texas A&M prospect – Luke Joeckel – is the best pure offensive tackle in the class and is another option to go first overall. Jarvis Jones has the talent to be the #1 pick but being diagnosed with spinal stenosis will cause some concern to NFL teams. Star Lotulelei has the upside to warrant the pick but nowhere near the consistency. Barkevious Mingo at LSU could come into contention.

There’s no obvious candidate and it could filter all the way through round one. We could see a lot of early low-cost trades next April. And if a quarterback doesn’t go first overall, we could see the same again in 2014 when the likes of Jadeveon Clowney, Marqise Lee and Cyrus Kouandijo will be eligible to turn pro. It is still a quarterback league, though, so don’t be surprised if we see a guy like Barkley go first overall despite his disappointing senior year.

There isn’t a player in college football like Cordarrelle Patterson. On Saturday he took a punt 81 yards to the house – completing a quartet of ways to put points on the board. He now has nine total touchdowns for the year – four receiving, three rushing, one from a kick return and one from a punt return. At one point Patterson was bottled up and heading to the turf but somehow stayed on his feet, kept his balance, spun away from the tackle and managed to run it in for a score. He also led Tennessee in receiving yards (52 yards, three catches). You can see the touchdown by clicking here. He’s not the most polished receiver, but he’s a natural home run hitter who will consistently put cheap points on the board.

Tony Pauline speculated last week that Patterson wouldn’t declare for the 2013 draft. He also suggested quarterback Tyler Bray and fellow receiver Justin Hunter would turn pro. I think as a trio they should make a pact – all return or all declare. Tennessee fired coach Derek Dooley today, mainly because the team is 0-7 in the SEC. Learning a new system could have a detrimental impact on Patterson ahead of his final year in college, especially if he’s playing with a new untested quarterback. He might not be a ten-catch-a-game guy at the next level, but he’ll find creative ways to score touchdowns. For a team that’s good enough to justify drafting a flair player like this, Patterson will provide a dynamic weapon in the NFL.

North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper was again superb against Virginia. Any zone blocking team in the NFL will have this guy right at the top of their draft board. Cooper shows unnatural athleticism for his size and positions and flashes really quality in pass protection. He pulls and gets to the second level better than any guard you’ll see in college. In fact he’s such an athlete we could see a move to tackle, similar to Branden Albert when he was drafted by Kansas City in 2008. Cooper and Chance Warmack are 1a and 1b when it comes to the best offensive lineman in this class. Either could leave the board first, but both shouldn’t get out of the top 10-15 picks.

Fellow Tar Heel Sylvester Williams deserves more attention than he gets. A lack of work ethic in high school and the JUCO ranks might put a few teams off, but nobody can deny how good he’s been for the Tar Heels. The light has switched on it seems and suddenly he looks like a dominating defensive tackle. He’s been playing with an injured ankle the last few weeks and was visibly struggling during the Virginia game. He’d got a lot of tape on the ankle and hobbled a bit after some plays. And yet he still dominated. It was a masterful performance, flashing an elite swim move to dodge blockers and break into the backfield. Williams had a big sack (you can see it by clicking here) and multiple tackles for a loss. Like Bruce Irvin he’ll turn 25 during his rookie season, but he has to be an option for the Seahawks as a possible every down three technique.

Brandon Coleman had a 41 yard reception for Rutgers against Cincinnati, in a squalid 10-3 victory. You can see the play by clicking here. It’s still presumed Coleman will be returning to Rutgers next year. He’s only a redshirt sophomore with 53 career catches. Yet in a draft without a receiver likely to go in the top fifteen picks, Coleman’s massive 6-6 frame and #1 potential could tempt him into turning pro. He finished with two catches for 49 yards against Cincy and has eight touchdowns on the year.

One final note – keep an eye on receiver Markus Wheaton at Oregon State. Teams will like his personality and attitude, plus his production this year has been excellent. He has ten touchdowns and 977 yards and could be a second round pick. He lacks elite size or speed and is listed at 6-1, 182lbs. However, a smart team with a good passing game will draft Wheaton and he’ll be a productive player. Not flashy, just productive.

28 Responses to “Week 12 in review: Zach Ertz could be a top-15 pick”

  1. Michael says:

    Rob, If one of those guards falls is Tom Cable gonna be pounding the table for him, or are we at the point of sticking with what we got and letting them grow up together and build that continuity? With as much O-line injury problems as this team has had in the post Walter Jones era, I wouldn’t mind bringing in another OG, esspecially if he has a chance to be elite.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Seattle will need to be picking within the top-15 to have any chance at that pair. Someone will draft them. I think you’d have to draft one of them given the chance, as it’d be a plug in and play for a decade. And Cooper could probably kick out to tackle too. But I can’t see either being available for the Seahawks.

      • Michael says:

        You have consistently rated Warmack slightly ahead of Cooper up to this point. Any chance that changes around combine time?

        I remember most people thinking that Okung was a little bit better than Trent Williams based on their play in college, but Williams blew up the combine and ended up just ahead of Russell. Could Cooper be that much more athletic than Warmack? Even if he is, would that be enough to push him ahead of Warmack?

  2. Colin says:

    I am getting really tired of the “let’s draft more offensive linemen!” debate. We DO NOT NEED more 1st round investments into any of those positions. Draft for depth and let Okung, Carp, Unger, McQuistan and Breno go to work. They have played quite well over the last month (with the exception of the Jets game) and I expect more growth as time goes along.

    They need to start focusing on skill positions. Continue to add playmakers for Russell and begin thinking about life after Leroy Hill, Clemons and soon enough Browner.

    • Kenny Sloth says:

      I would actually love to see Dallas Thomas in the second. Depends on where we pick and who’s available. Hoping for Ogletree or Coleman and Dallas Thomas and Jesse Williams from Bama.

    • Michael says:

      If Warmack or Cooper are available in the 20′s it wouldn’t be, “let’s draft more offensive lineman!” it would be, “Wow I can’t believe this guy fell to us! He’s the best player available!”

      Yes the line has been playing pretty well, and “focusing on skill positions” is all good and fine, but passing on a superior talent to fill a perceived need is just not the smartest way to build a team. Neither Carpenter or Moffit have shown that they are gonna be available week in and week out, and if a top 15 player is there in the (hopefully late) 20′s I want the ‘Hawks to take him no matter what postion he plays (within reason)

      • adog says:

        If one of those guys falls into the 20′s…i’m pretty sure one of them will since they are offensive guards…i doubt the seahawks draft them. It’s a fallacy to rate a college guard as the most pro-ready. It’s a simple position as in physical strength suffices for the type of dominance that Warmack and Cooper have demonstrated. If they were such good offensive lineman…how come they are not playing left tackle…or even right tackle for that matter? This draft will be heavy on d linemen in the first round, and it’s shaping up to be deep at the TE position. This i where i expect the seahawks to go in late round 1(maybe trade back) or in round 2. I’m curious at to opinion on Fauria out of UCLA?

        • Attyla the Hawk says:

          They aren’t rating guard as the most pro-ready position. They are rating these two particular guard prospects as pro ready.

          Normally, I would agree with you. And in general too. We have Moffitt and Sweezy that we are still developing at guard.

          However, there is no denying that when we put Carp next to Okung — we started getting ridiculous production out of our runs to the left. Pairing two quality players together forces mismatches.

          In addition, our value of guard play has always been very very high. We want to run more than we pass. So OL quality is going to naturally be at a higher premium. That premium is enhanced further at the guard position due to the specific circumstances of having a QB who is short. He is undoubtedly affected to a greater degree by pressure in his face. I’d go so far as to say that our run first style, plus Russell Wilson makes us the one team by circumstance that is most sensitive to OG quality.

          I’d even go so far as to say that for Seattle specifically, OG is more important than OT. Guards and centers create the cutback lanes and keep Russell’s view unhindered. Russell doesn’t seem to have much difficulty in escaping DEs that beat the tackle to the inside or the outside. He’s shown an ability to slide correctly to the blocker side allowing OTs who are beat to ride his man out of danger.

          Good to even great OG play improves his ability to slide up into the pocket to avoid edge rushers. With good interior OL play, Russell can account for the beaten tackle.

          One only has to look at the SF Niners investment in quality guards to see the positive impact those 3 interior positions have when you intend to make consistent use of them. If it comes down to a great OG player or a much lesser graded alternative then I’d go with the great OG. Particularly as it appears we will be picking in the latter half of the draft. So the great talent pickings will be slimmed down by then considerably.

          • dave crockett says:

            I’ll be damned if I wasn’t gonna write the same thing Attyla, but most likely not nearly as well.

            I’m not *advocating* for a first round OG, but if this team is going to build around RW then it needs a dominant interior that can create lanes. (If you’re building around Tom Brady it’s less of a necessity.)

            It’s possible, maybe even likely that letting these current guys play and develop while drafting for depth is the answer. A dominant interior may not require further high investments but rather development time. I just wouldn’t rule it out as absolutely unwise.

            • adog says:

              i think it’s hard to compute how much offensive guards affect the pocket…and passing lanes. It’s a little far sighted to say that RW is short…so the Seahawks should draft a top guard. Like everyone else…i have not saw a whole lot of evidence that his height even matters in the NFL. Of course Unger(with his line calls) might account for the nice pockets that Wilson throws from the majority of the time. I also think the effective running game and the resulting play action formulates nice passing lanes for RW. I think they go TE or 3 tech…or possibly grab another leo type pass rusher in the first

              • Attyla the Hawk says:

                When you watch the All-22 footage of hawks games, it is very easy to see that we don’t complete many passes in the middle of the field. But we also rarely have plays where players run routes in the middle of the field.

                Without having any insider knowledge of the game plan or play calling, there are really only a couple ways we can take that. Either we just prefer a long developing 10-20 yard dig with 2 fly routes all the time, or there is truth to the notion that Russell has difficulty throwing over the middle of the field and we call plays with that liability in mind. I’d have to think it’s the latter. Virtually every pattern is run from the hashes to the sideline. Very little activity between the hash marks. When they are, it’s usually a hook or seam pattern that is just inside the hash.

                We don’t complete many short middle passes. Nor do we run many of them. Bevell is a WCO disciple, and yet the bread and butter of that offense is conspicuously absent. The slant route is virtually non existent. Instead we substitute bubble screens. I do believe this is a symptom of height issues coming to play. Because last year with Tarvaris, we threw those patterns frequently.

                There are indications that Russell’s height eliminates certain avenues of attack. I personally don’t think that’s a critical failing. I believe all QBs have to work around their limitations. Russell can do things that taller pocket passers can’t too. All offenses are tailored to strengths and away from weaknesses. We can see the effect of Russell’s height by virtue of the plays we don’t run.

                I do believe good/great OG play can open up those portions of the playbook. In addition to give us even better running capability which accounts for 54% of our play calls (we are #1 in the NFL by a mile in that regard). One really only has to see what a great interior line can do for a QB by watching that SF/Chicago game last night. It was a clinic on the value of dominating the interior.

                • adog says:

                  I’m not so sure they have a receiver who can go over the middle and catch the ball consistently besides Baldwin. This might account somewhat for the lack of passes over the middle. I just think the argument is too abstract that by drafting a guards in the first round will improve our offense to a tipping point. Did not get a chance to watch SF\CHI game last night, but i think you could look at Crabtree and Davis, and say the same thing…that they would change\improve Wilson and the offense.

      • Colin says:

        I totally disagree. Drafting either of those guards in the 20′s makes no sense. Chance Warmack doesn’t make us Super Bowl contenders, and quite frankly, it’s revisionist history to assume he’d stay any healthier at this level than a Moffitt or Carp (neither had big injury concerns coming out).

        You can’t justify taking either of those guys in the 20′s. Sorry. You’ve invested in the line long enough. Pittsburgh has played in three Super Bowls with some of the most awful offensive line play in the league. Green Bay won it all with 0 run blocking. Time to start looking to other positions.

        • Michael says:

          Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers… they never run the ball. I think it’s pretty obvious that Pete Carroll likes to run the ball. The two are not comparable.

          • Colin says:

            You still cannot justify the pick, Michael. The team has invested a BOATLOAD of $$ and draftpicks into the offensive line since Pete took over. It’s time to upgrade other positions.

            • Attyla the Hawk says:

              Sure you can Colin.

              It’s just a series of questions.

              1. Do you need to improve your offense or defense the most?

              If you think offense — ok there are only so many ways you can go:

              1. QB. Nope

              2. RB. Nope (quality is poor this year)

              3. TE. Possibly. Miller is uber expensive in 2013. We could use one. There are several quality TEs this year (Toilolo, Ertz, Eifert). Probably would be able to trade down and still get one.

              4. WR. Possibly. Talent is pretty inconsistent. Although truthfully, this is where Pete/John shines. Finding the one diamond in the rough that they can mold. The unknowable factor is do any of the guys we’ve attributed to Seattle here trip John’s spidey sense as one of those diamonds or not.

              5. OL. Possibly. The talent here is very strong. Particularly in the interior. Warmack, Cooper, Barrett Jones, Dallas Thomas. All very good players — with some elite versatility.

              We may not need OL the most. But the talent is much MUCH stronger there. In addition, the WR and TE options available in round one are possibly indistinguishable from what we think will be available in round 2.

              It is not inconceivable or outrageous to think that circumstance could lead us to taking an elite interior line prospect. We value them highly. Our line is not totally complete. And it looks like we’re looking to improve the pieces around Wilson.

              Last year, this was a team with needs. We didn’t take Decastro and for good reason. This year, there aren’t any glaring needs. We’re in a add talent anywhere we can improve mode. We’d LIKE to get touchdown makers. But really what kind of returns can we get in round one to fill that bill? Failing our #1 desire — improving our bread and butter seems a very good alternative. Particularly if it has the ancillary benefit of improving our pass protection too.

  3. Kenny Sloth says:

    What about Aaron Murray?

    Guy doesn’t have elite measurables, but could be a great guy to take in the early third if you’re a team like the Eagles.

    He has a quick release, good mechanics, underrated speed, his awareness is great. Take a second look at him if you have watched him closely this year at all. I’ve been really impressed.

    • Kenny Sloth says:

      What if KC took him in the second after taking a good pass catcher in the first in a similar move to what the Bengals did year before last. Maybe trading back and then picking up Ertz and focus on running the ball with a two TE set. He, Moeaki, Charles, and whoever KC replaces Dwayne Bowe with (which probably should happen). Could be a really savvy move.

      • Michael says:

        I like the idea of that move for KC, but it seems to me that Murray would last a little longer than the top of the 2nd round. I would think he is still behind the likes of Barkley (pending injury evaluation) and Smith, and if those guys end up being middle-bottom of the 1st round, wouldn’t that push Murray down further than the top 5 of round 2? Either way, it’s just too bad for KC that there is no A.J. Green in this draft; that draft is looking like solid gold for the Bengals.

        Interesting to think about a team trading out of the #1 pick this year… Sure seems like they won’t get a ton for it with no clear cut #1 talent out there.

        • John says:

          Well I think this could be a QB needy draft with meh prospects. Much like we saw two years ago. KC, Philly, Arz, Jets (could happen if they clean house at years end), Jax (Gabbert is TERRIBLE), Buffalo, SD (Crazy right? 2 years ago Rivers was elite), Oak, could all be in the market for a new QB. So I can see prospects stalk really soar come April. How high do you think Locker or Gabbert would’ve gone last year?

          So I think predicting their stock right now is a crap shoot since there is no true number 1′s out there. Barkley’s injury mixes it up more.

          • Rob Staton says:

            Washington probably wouldn’t have felt the pressure to trade up for RGIII with Locker there – I’m absolutely certain Mike Shanahan would’ve drafted Locker at #10 had Tennessee not taken him off the board. As for Gabbert, a lot of teams liked him including Seattle believe it or not. So he probably still would’ve gone top 15. Let’s not forget, Ryan Tannehill was a top ten pick last year.

    • Rob Staton says:

      He’s had a good year and if there’s there in that R3 range Seattle would be wise to take him as a cheap, long term backup with trade value.

  4. Aussie Rich says:

    Hey Rob, Markus Wheaton’s speed is his best asset. He can seriously stretch a field.

    • CJ says:

      Agreed. Beat DeAnthony Thomas in the 100m dash..

      • Rob Staton says:

        I’ve not seen evidence of elite speed in the tape I’ve watched. Not saying he’s a slouch, far from it. Just not elite. But you’ll see how much I like the guy in an updated top-50 watch list this week.

  5. Nate Dogg says:

    Really wish I saw better hands out of Ertz when he’s in traffic. What makes Gronk special is his ability to shield off defenders and catch the ball with people all over him. I don’t see anything like that from Ertz, if anything it looks like he struggles with defenders nearby.

    • Nate Dogg says:

      And I know you said he’s not Gronk, but he’ll have to have that kind of catching ability to be worth a top 15 pick without special athleticism.