Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
6-5, 230 lbs.
Quick Notes from the Film
For more scouting notes, see Texas A&M @ LSU
In contrast to Teddy Bridgewater and Marcus Mariota, Zach Mettenberger is not as ‘electric’ to watch. Mettenberger is not a dual-threat QB, but a pocket passer. But old-fashioned pocket passer is not a thing of the past, and being one isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Tom Brady and Payton Manning are living proof of that. Despite not being a dual-threat QB, Mettenberger is our top rated passer. He is very unique and offers what a lot of other prospects do not.
What you want to see in a top QB prospect is the ability to make every throw and to be accurate. Check, and check. Mettenberger has a big-time arm and can launch it all over the field. Not only does he complete beautiful deep passes, but he also throws a nice outside shoulder pass on 1/Out routes, which is a necessity in the NFL. There is no question, he can make every throw in the book.
Not only does Mettenberger have an absolute cannon, but he can put in on a dime. When you watch him on film, he often puts it where only the WR can get it, and away from the defender. His sharpshooter-like accuracy is one of his biggest strengths.
The mental aspect of the game is perhaps most importantly when scouting QBs. Hundley, Mariota, and others will need some time to adjust to a pro-style system and in facing a very advanced defense. Mettenberger, on the other hand, has played in a pro-style system at LSU and has taken equal number of snaps under center and from the shotgun.
Under Cam Cameron’s system, Mettenberger is asked to go through a lot of progressions, as many of the play designs incorporate 3-4 receiving options across the field. When he is asked to go through his progressions, he generally fares well and makes good decisions. And on many occasions, he makes the wise decision to dump it off to his checkdown. Mettenberger is very advanced in running a pro-style system, and this is what makes him a top prospect.
Mettenberger has been termed a ‘gunslinger,’ who makes a lot of risky decisions. While he certainly can sling it, there are a number of plays per game in which Mettenberger makes you scratch your head a bit. However, he also makes some great plays out of nothing. It should also be noted that the LSU offensive line is often overwhelmed. LSU also runs many pre-snap targeted plays, where the QB passes immediately to a screen or quick slant. Additionally, the design of many of Cameron’s plays are slow developing plays, in which 3 or more WRs work the deeper parts of the field. The point is that, this inherently has coerced Mettenberger to make some risk-ier throws.
The elite QBs in the NFL, a la Payton Manning and Russell Wilson, understand the short window of time to throw a football and can feel the pressure. Mettenberger is still developing in this area. He tends to take a lot of sacks and hits. It should be noted that again, the LSU line often gets overwhelmed, and that design of many of Cameron’s plays are slow-developing plays. Despite this, Mettenberger does not get flustered in the pocket. He often steps into the throwing lane, but could learn to throw it away more often.
Mettenberger is the unquestioned leader of LSU. LSU coaches rave about his determination and grit. However, there is some concern surrounding LSU’s record and Mettenberger’s ability to lead a team to victory. However, this should not be cause for concern. Firstly, LSU does not place the game in the hands of the quarterback often. Secondly, the only losses LSU has surrendered have been losses to other SEC heavy-weights (Bama, Georgia, Ole Miss, Florida). All of these losses were close shootouts in which Mettenberger had his team fighting until the end. The only non-SEC loss was to a talented Clemson team in 2012, and that was a shootout as well. Nonetheless, LSU has won 17 games and lost only 6 under his command.
At 6-5, 235 lbs, Mettenberger has an ideal frame for a QB that cannot be matched by any other prospect. However, he is not especially athletic, at least in comparison to the dual-threat QBs in this class. He is certainly a pocket-passer, and is not going to get many first downs with his feet. However, LSU does have him escape the pocket often, on designed bootlegs, and Mettenberger does fairly well.
Perhaps the best attribute that Mettenberger has displayed is his ability to improve. From 2012 to 2013, there was a marked improvement in his accuracy and decision-making. His completion percentage shot up from 58% to 65%, his QB rating improved significantly, and his TD-INT ratio also improved. If he can continue progressing and developing, he has a very bright future. And although Mettenberger is certainly not Johnny Manziel, he does have some moxie to him.
There are some concerns regarding Mettenberger’s character. He has pleaded guilty to charges of sexual assault. However, this does not seem to be cause for concern. While not dismissing this, Mettenberger does not have a reputation for drinking or trouble. Additionally, Mettenberger was honest in the proceedings, took it like a mature adult, and seems to have grown and matured from the experience. This is not simply a perspective from looking at him, but from his coaches, family, friends, and acquaintances. Although Mettenberger does have this character question mark, which should be investigated, it does not seem to be cause for concern. To read more about Mettenberger’s charges and personal growth, check out this USA Today article.
Conclusion & Valuation
Despite a few risky decisions, Mettenberger is much alike EJ Manuel in that he is especially unique in what he brings to the table in contrast to the rest of the class. He is big, has a big and accurate arm, and is the most pro-ready. Without the injury, he is a first round and potentially top ten QB. However, his knee injury will adversely affect his stock because he won’t be healthy to play until late in 2014. As such, his value likely rests in the second round.
As for a comparison, I’d compare his style to Payton Manning. In no way am I saying that his career will be alike the future HOF Payton Manning, but he is a tall pocket passer with a big time arm that constantly makes adjustments and fares very well in a pro-style system.