Many feel the Jacksonville Jaguars will not be picking a quarterback in the first round and waiting until round two. That means we might want to shift some of our focus towards the second "tier" of quarterbacks in the draft, which includes LSU's Zack Mettenberger.
Mettenberger fits the mold of the prototypical NFL quarterback at 6'5" and 225 pounds. He's the classic big armed pocket passer who pushes the football down the field. He had a rough start to his college career getting suspended, eventually kicked off the team and transferring from Georgia to LSU. His LSU career started out rough in 2012 but the light seemed to come on late in that season against Alabama.
Mettenberger was much better in 2013 season, paired with Cam Cameron as his offensive coordinator, and finished out his college career looking like he might be a first round pick, but he tore his ACL late in the year and now is a big question mark.
Where Mettenberger Wins
From a pure passing standpoint, Mettenberger can make every NFL throw in the playbook, but he excels pushing the ball down the field on deeper routes because of his touch and ball placement. He has the arm to put the necessary velocity on deeper routes, hitting the outs and corner routes with ease.
Mettenberger also moves around in the pocket well, despite being labeled as a "statue" by most, which leans more to his mobility outside the pocket. He often will step up to avoid pressure and side step left or right while keeping his eyes down the field. He's not afraid to take a shot from a defender to get the pass complete, rarely ever looking at the rush while going through his reads. Mettenberger is also very comfortable with bodies around him and around his feet when passing the football, which is a great trait considering his setup and release are slowed down, which means defenders are going to get on him.
Mettenberger showed significant improvement from junior to senior year, primarily under the guidance of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, running a more NFL-style offensive system. Mettenberger routinely worked from under center, shotgun, play-action (turning his back to the defense) and multiple receiver sets which should ease his transition into the NFL.
He does a good job going through his progressions and reading the field from long to short and knows the strength of his receivers. He was aided quite a bit by the talented LSU pair of wideouts, but he also played to their strengths and knew they would win with the ball in the air, which can be a double-edge sword.
Where Mettenberger Needs To Improve
The biggest area Mettenberger needs to improve is in the overall speed of his setup and footwork. It's very methodical and slow. Some evaluators like to say "slow feet, slow mind", but Mettenberger still appears to be a functional passer even with that flaw.
Mettenberger is also limited in his mobility outside of the pocket and needs a lot of space to throw the football. He is similar to Byron Leftwich in that regard, in that he can slide in the pocket to avoid pressure and step up, but once he's outside of the pocket he labors to shake defenders and is mediocre passing on the move. If his launch point is altered he can struggle.
He also has a three-quarter release point, but being 6'5" it doesn't seem to be much of a hindrance to his game. Mettenberger also struggles with consistent touch on shorter routes, often rifling the ball at his receivers/running backs rather than leading them on the route. He's mediocre in regards to anticipation throwing, in that it happens at times but he's much more of a rhythm and "see it, throw it" type of passer. He often trusts his arm too, pushing him to the "gunslinger" label and relies on his receivers to make contested catches and throws into coverage. This is both a blessing and a curse, because he trusts his receivers to make a play but it can lead to a lot of head scratching throws.
When watching Mettenberger play, it's easy to see why some people are big fans and why some people are not fans at all. He's a great example of "what you like" in a quarterback. He's a classic drop back gunslinger passing quarterback who lives and dies by his down field passing. He's arguably one of the best down field throwers in the 2014 class, so if you're a team who is going to push it down the field often, he will fit right in.
I think he fits for the Jacksonville Jaguars in that second tier of quarterback in the second round, where it's likely he will be because of his late-season ACL tear. The Jaguars plan to sit whoever they draft anyway, so if Mettenberger is further enough along come the NFL Draft, it would make sense to draft him and let him learn while he recovers.
Grade: 7.00 - Day two pick