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Cowboys' Potential Draft Pick: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 17: Tight end Zach Ertz #86 of the Stanford Cardinal tries to get around defensive back Terrance Mitchell #27 of the Oregon Ducks in the third quarter of the game at Autzen Stadium on November 17, 2012 in Eugene, Oregon. Stanford won the game 17-14 in overtime. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

    Starting only one year at Stanford after backing up current Indianapolis Colts tight end Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz burst onto the scene in 2012 with 69 receptions, 898 yards, and six touchdowns.

    Scouting Report

    At 6-5, 249 pounds, Ertz has a somewhat lanky frame for a tight end. He added some bulk over the past year, but he still has room for improvement. Ertz’s added mass hasn’t necessarily translated into on-field strength because he can really struggle at the point-of-attack. In the game against USC, Ertz whiffed on numerous blocks throughout the game and got drove into the backfield other times.

    Perhaps the biggest concern for Ertz is that his arms are only 31 ¾ inches. That might not seem like a big deal, but tight ends, like offensive linemen, need long arms to extend in the running game. Ertz can let longer defenders get into his chest and control him at the line. In comparison, pretty much all of the other top tight ends in this class have arms over 33 inches long, so Ertz’s arms are well over an inch shorter than average.

    Ertz is a good route-runner. He sets up defenders nicely and uses really good body position and subtle jabs to get open. Ertz is far from an outstanding athlete and he’s not going to just fly by defenders, as evidenced by his 4.78 40-yard dash. That doesn’t mean he can’t be an effective pass-catcher in the NFL, of course, especially since he can line up anywhere on the field. He was used in-line, out wide, and in the slot at Stanford.

    NFL Comparison: Dennis Pitta

    Similarly sized, Pitta and Ertz are both below-average athletes who make plays through efficient and intelligent route-running. Pitta is a better blocker than Ertz at this point.

    Projection

    Ertz is projected to go anywhere from the back of the first round to the middle of the second. As a slow tight end with short arms who doesn’t block well, I can’t see how Ertz is being compared to Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert, with whom Ertz will compete to be the top tight end off of the board. If it’s Eifert, as expected, there’s a chance that Ertz falls to Dallas in the second round. I don’t think he’s good value there at all, but he could be an option if the team deems him a first-round talent.

    Fit In Dallas

    Even with James Hanna behind Jason Witten, the Cowboys need to eventually begin thinking about the future of the tight end position. They have much more obvious holes that will probably make the selection of a tight end in the early rounds improbable, but I wouldn’t put it past the ‘Boys to draft a tight end in the first few rounds if he’s far and away the top player on their board.

    Other Scouting Reports

    Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU

    Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

    Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

    Jonathan Cooper, G, UNC

    Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU

    Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State

    Chance Warmack, G, Alabama

    Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon

    Jonathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia

    D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

    Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia

    Barrett Jones, C, Alabama

    Sylvester Williams, DT, UNC

    Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

    Kevin Minter, LB, LSU

    Larry Warford, G, Kentucky

    Datone Jones, DT/DE, UCLA

    Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

    Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.