Zach Mettenberger has every intention of making everyone who passed on him in the 2014 NFL Draft pay for it. 176 players were picked ahead of the former star QB for the LSU Tigers before the Tennessee Titans finally took him in the 6th round. In the end, the Titans may have gotten the steal of the draft.
QB was a side-need for the Titans entering the draft. They have former firs- rounder Jake Locker entrenched there for the time being, but he still hasn’t developed into the franchise signal caller the team thought they were getting when they took him 8th overall in 2011. Progress has been slight through three injury-filled seasons, and with a new HC in Ken Whisenhunt coming in, there’s no real allegiance to Locker.
That’s why it was a side-need. They more than likely weren’t going to take a QB very early on because they still aren’t sure if Locker can be the guy or not, but they needed some reassurances for the future in case Locker, who’s in the last year of his rookie contract, isn’t back next year.
Mettenberger wasn’t supposed to fall anywhere near that far on draft day. He was viewed as a 2nd- or 3rd-round prospect, and was a trendy sleeper to go in the late first. His size is impeccable for the position at the NFL level (6-foot 5, 225-pounds), his arm strength is elite, he’s played and excelled against elite competition in the SEC and has a plethora of experience playing in a pro-style offense under a former NFL HC/OC/QB coach in Cam Cameron. All of that spells out first-rounder.
Why wasn’t he ever considered a first-rounder? A few reasons. ‘Character concerns’ and ‘off the field issues’ were the favorite reasoning, but also a lack of mobility (heightened by the fact he’s coming off a torn ACL), poor accuracy under pressure and a slow delivery.
Let’s start with the mechanical issues. A lack of mobility? Sure, he’s not the fleetest of foot. But is Tom Brady? Peyton Manning? Drew Brees? Absolutely not. You don’t have to have great mobility to excel at the position in the NFL, though it is a useful weapon. What you need is good footwork in the pocket to help avoid the rush, and Mettenberger has that. Forget the torn ACL. There’s very little chance that will ever affect his professional career, unless it’s re-injured.
Accuracy? His accuracy is fine when he gets the proper protection and when he gets his feet set. And working with a good QB coach moving forward will help clean up his footwork and speed up his delivery.
Plus, protection shouldn’t be a problem. Taylor Lewan (OT, Michigan) was taken 11th overall and RT Michael Oher was just signed via free agency, so he’ll have good protection on the edges. RG Chance Warmack and LG Andy Levitre form one of the better inside duo’s in the league and the team has high hopes for second year center Brian Scwenke. Having a good offensive line is paramount to a young QBs development and that’s just what Tennessee has.
Character issues? Overblown. He was a drunk freshman in college who fondled a woman at a bar. A mistake? Yes. Did he pay for it? Obviously. I’m sorry but that lone, isolated incident doesn’t mean he’s a ‘character concern’.
So now Mettenberger is ready to prove everyone wrong. He’s in a good situation in Tennessee: a proven HC with a good track record of developing offenses; a good stable of playmakers at wide receiver to throw to (Kendall Wright, Nate Washington, Dexter McCluster and Justin Hunter); a good offensive line for both protection and keeping the run game healthy; and finally, zero expectations. A 6th-rounder isn’t supposed to turn into anything great, and he can take his time developing this year behind Locker.
At worst, he’s a bust and he’s cut, causing the team minimal financial loss. At best? He’s a franchise QB they plucked out of the 6th round. Win-win.