Before LSU’s 2013 season went south and before the Bayou Bengals’ quarterback tore his ACL, Zach Mettenberger was already expected to be selected anywhere between the early second to late fourth round in the 2014 NFL Draft. Now that he has an injury that might prevent him from starting as a rookie on opening day in 2014, Mettenberger could easily fall in May’s draft, which means the team that takes a shot on him is going to get an even bigger steal than he was going to be before the injury.
Put simply, Mettenberger is the whole package; he has everything pro scouts want to see in a young signal-caller entering the NFL Draft. Mettenberger has great size at 6-foot-5, a strong arm, unrivaled accuracy, terrific poise in the pocket, natural ability to read defenses before and after the snap, quick release and good release point, solid footwork and a clutch gene with a hint of tenacity that allows him to fit balls into spaces where he probably shouldn’t without being reckless. If you’re a stats whiz, the kid threw for 3,082 yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions while completing 65 percent of his passes in 12 games this year.
Found a flaw yet? Didn’t think so.
Seriously, watching film on Mettenberger blew me away. I’ve watched several LSU games this year, including Mettenberger’s gem against Georgia in late September, but the film breakdown on his 2013 season should make NFL scouts drool. That leads us to the 2014 NFL Draft.
There are eight teams that will undoubtedly select a quarterback in May to be the faces of their franchises. Add in the fact that teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers could also decide to take a signal-caller, and all 10 of the NFL-caliber quarterbacks expected to enter this year’s draft (minus Marcus Mariota) will be taken. The question now is: Where will Mettenberger end up with a torn ACL?
In my 2014 NFL Draft quarterback predictions, I had Mettenberger as the seventh quarterback taken, going to the Tennessee Titans in the second round at No. 42 overall. However, that was before his injury and before Mariota decided to return for his redshirt junior season.
Now to clarify quickly: Mettenberger was the second-best quarterback in my rankings behind Mariota, so now he’s No. 1. The predictions were just that, not what should happen, but what will.
So now that Mariota is out of the running, Mettenberger would move up in the minds of NFL teams, but then right back down because of his injury. Thus, everything depends on those couple of teams that are debating about whether to take a quarterback relatively early in May.
The Titans are still the best fit for Mettenberger, but considering they’ve given up on Jake Locker because of injuries, they may shy away from the LSU standout. Considering the Minnesota Vikings were eyeing Mariota with their top-five pick, they’ll likely take Brett Hundley now that the Oregon star is off the board. So theoretically, Mettenberger should go earlier than previously expected by process of elimination. But if other teams looking for a quarterback early shy away because of his injury, he could easily end up with the St. Louis Rams or a team like the Bucs or Steelers that don’t need a quarterback immediately, but would definitely take a talent like Mettenberger if he was available late.
Long story short, Mettenberger is an opening day rookie starter when healthy. Now that he’ll likely miss at least part of his first pro season, he’s more enticing to teams looking to develop a quarterback for two or three years before replacing their current starters. Regardless, Mettenberger will likely be taken later than previously thought, which means whichever team is smart enough to grab him is going to reap the reward for the next decade or so. Put simply, this kid is the real deal.