2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown – Zach Mettenberger, QB LSU


Oct 20, 2012; College Station, TX, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger (8) throws a pass against the Texas A

Going into the 2012 season, LSU was hopeful they had their best quarterback in quite a few years in Zach Mettenberger.  LSU has relied on a running game, strong defense, and a sheer talent superiority but win, but lacking a playmaker behind center has held them back.  While Mettenberger showed flashes of what he can be, the fully formed product was not there yet and LSU did not reach their potential last year as a result. On the stat sheet, Mettenberger was relatively pedestrian as a quarterback and the offense was inclined to run first, second, and even third at times. Mettenberger arrived at LSU after initially running into some off field trouble at the University of Georgia.  While Mettenberger seems to have learned from his past, teams will certainly look into whether he has practiced what he has preached in his fresh start in Baton Rouge.

As a quarterback, Mettenberger looks the part, has the arm to be a legitimate quarterback and can make some great throws, but he has not put it all together.  As a junior, he was a facilitator and had not really taken the step into being the playmaker behind center LSU was hoping he could be.  Mettenberger’s physical tools and build will get him drafted on day three but he has a chance to really up his stock this coming season and could be a riser if he takes the next step as a quarterback.  Right now, Mettenberger appears to be right on the fringe of the second and third day of the draft, but if he can get more consistent with his accuracy and becomes the focal point of the offense and something defenses fear rather than just a guy behind center.

Vitals & Build

Mettenberger is listed at 6’5” 230lbs and looks the part of being a legitimate quarterback.  He has decent athleticism, but he is not agile, so he does not make quick twitch movements well.  Mettenberger appears to be a physically strong but it does not show up on the field to this point.  He can still continue to add bulk to his frame but until he makes more use of it, it is not all that important other than for his ability to absorb hits.  Mettenberger really should spend much of his time working on getting quicker rather than bigger.

Arm Strength

Mettenberger has a strong arm and is able to throw the ball down the field with little effort.  Provided he has the ability to set up and get his body into it, there is no throw Mettenberger cannot make and as a result, he can fit into any offensive scheme in the NFL on arm strength.

His zip is solid but not spectacular.  Mettenberger can fit balls into decently small windows but he is not throwing lasers on the field.  This is hardly a deal breaker but it is something that can be improved.

Accuracy & Touch

Mettenberger is incredibly inconsistent in this area.  He will make some throws that are brilliant and look beautiful and miss some throws that are inexplicable.  Mettenberger will throw some bounce passes when he is throwing zip passes and will overthrow touch passes.  There are times when he puts the ball right where it should go for the receiver to make the best play possible as well as times where he throws anticipation throws and opens up the receiver with his throw.  On the other hand, he will then throw passes behind his target and either miss them entirely or force them to make an adjustment that slows them down significantly.  There is definitely a Jeckyl and Hyde feel to Mettenberger’s passing and the problem is that it happens from play to play.  He is not really a rhythm passer that tends to throw well in stretches and poorly in stretches.  Every pass seems to be an adventure.  This is an area that has to improve as he leaves far too many plays on the field.

Mechanics & Footwork

Mettenberger’s throwing motion is a class overhand delivery that is average in terms of getting rid of the ball quickly.  He will also drop down to side arm on some quick shuffle passes or when he wants to get rid of the ball quickly and work it around a defender.

His footwork is somewhat clunky and could be sped up, especially when he is operating from shotgun.  He is actually good and comfortable playing under center and has a smooth setup getting to his drops or when he needs to run play action and turn his back to the defense.  In shotgun, he is a little slow from catching the ball to being ready to throw the ball.  It seems like part of this is due to just needing to get quicker with his feet and torso making the move to turn sideways to set up and throw, but it also appears as though part of the reason he is making a slow move is because he is reading the field before he turns.

Much of this appears to come down to momentum with Mettenberger.  When he is already moving, he moves well and looks relatively athletic.  He just does not move nearly as well from a standstill, whether it is getting into a throwing position or avoiding pressure.  He appears to cheat just a little bit as he sits under center to give himself a bit of an advantage getting out from under center.  Mettenberger is not doing anything per se, but most quarterbacks tend to be further under center than he is, which could potentially lead to botched snaps.  It does not appear to be a problem to this point, however.  And again, with his momentum, Mettenberger looks good and athletic when he rolls out to throw the ball.  He needs to work improving his quick twitch movements, especially with the lower half of his body.

When it comes to passing the football, Mettenberger does not require much of a step forward for him to make a throw.  Even though he is big, he does not require a ton of space to throw the ball in the pocket and can get rid of the ball in tight quarters.

Pocket Awareness

For the most part, Mettenberger does a good job here but his lack of quick twitch athleticism tends to be a problem.  Mettenberger keeps his eyes down the field no matter what and stays in the pocket for the most part.  The defense generally knows where he is going to be but so does the offensive line.  The offensive line has an advantage for the most part because he is not a statue and can roll out effectively to keep defenses guessing but when he is in the pocket, he is not moving much.

Mettenberger is unfazed by what is going on around him in the pocket, which is good and bad, depending on the viewpoint.  He keeps his eyes down the field and is always looking to find a place to throw the ball, which is exactly what he should do, but there are times when he appears not to feel the pressure.  This could be due to a couple factors.  There are times when Mettenberger sees the rush coming and is simply too unwieldy to get out of the way.  As a result, he could be deciding that he is not going to get out of the way anyway, so just worry about finding a receiver and trying to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible.  He will take hits and take sacks, but that is the situation he is in and unless he can improve his quickness and agility, there will be a significant onus put on the offensive line, especially up the middle.

With that, Mettenberger is never afraid to step up in the pocket or set up and make a throw with bodies around him.  He does a good job of seemingly ignoring all of the noise going on around him and is able to make throws with good mechanics and timing.  He also does a good job of finding passing lanes and seems to avoid having passes batted down at the line for the most part.

Decision Making & Anticipation

The offense at LSU does not ask Mettenberger to make a ton of complicated reads and they have the caliber of athletes that are able to create separation, which allows Mettenberger to choose from an array of open targets.  For the most part, he does not put the ball at risk too often and is able to find an open player.

Mettenberger shows a decent amount of ability to anticipate throws and open up his receivers at times.  He has shown the ability to occasionally throw guys open, lead his teammates to open spots and put them in position to make plays.  If he can continue growing in this area, it could be an aspect of his game that really allows him to stand out going forward to the next level.  With some of the receiver talent LSU has, he can allow them to shine on occasion and that is something that could give decision makers hope for him at the next level,


It all depends on how Mettenberger is moving.  When he has already started moving, he looks like a decently, fluid athlete and probably has decent straight line speed.  He looks good rolling out and can probably pick up a few yards if the play breaks down and he is wide open.  In terms of quick twitch movement, Mettenberger is a statue.  If he is not already moving, he struggles and has a real problem avoiding tacklers, which is a problem because with his size, he is a huge target.

The other problem and opportunity Mettenberger has as he comes into his senior year is that he is such a big, strong player but other than the fact he can take a beating and get up like nothing happened, but he does not break tackles with that strength.  He is not someone who absorbs hits and continues with the play.  Mettenberger goes down just like if he was smaller.  If he can improve in that area, it could help him avoid some of these tackles or at least make defenders have to work a little harder for them.

Mettenberger’s accuracy appears unaffected by throwing on the move, which means it is just as inconsistent as in the pocket.  He tends to throw mostly zip passes on the move, which means when he misses, he misses short.

System Fit

Mettenberger is still raw and somewhat a ball of clay that could be molded into what an NFL team would want.  He could be picked in either scheme but is probably going to be more sought after by teams who go vertical more often.  Regardless of the scheme, even with an incredible improvement, it is unlikely that Mettenberger will be ready to start in the NFL as a rookie and would be better served learning as a backup and continuing his development.  He has the potential to start in the league but appears to be a couple years away from being ready to make that transition.

2013 Schedule

Sat, August 31vs. TCU
Sat, Sept. 7vs. UAB
Sat, Sept. 14vs. Kent State
Sat, Sept. 21vs. Auburn
Sat, Sept. 28at Georgia
Sat, Oct. 5at Mississippi State
Sat, Oct. 12vs. Florida
Sat, Oct. 19at Ole Miss
Sat. Oct. 26vs. Furman
Sat, Nov. 9at Alabama
Sat, Nov. 23vs. Texas A&M
Fri, Nov. 29vs. Arkansas

Notable Games

With his inconsistency, every game is extremely important for Mettenberger, but a few games stand out above the rest.  Florida has a decent mix of secondary and pas rushing talent and they could force Mettenberger to beat them with his arm.  Alabama is always a measuring stick for LSU but that extends to Mettenberger.  On the stat sheet, he looks great in last year’s game but much of his production was on plays after the catch and while he did not play poorly by any stretch, he was not the game changer he needed to be.  Lastly, the game against Texas A&M could be somewhat of a shootout between Johnny Manziel and Mettenberger.  LSU has not fared well in games that ask them to put up a lot of points.

NFL Comparison

While their path to this point could not be any more different, right now, Mettenberger resembles Brock Osweiler.  Osweiler was even bigger than Mettenberger when he declared for the draft as an underclassman from Arizona State but was just as raw and unpolished as Mettenberger is now.  Mettenberger will have this season to prove he can be a more consistent and more polished option behind center, but should the light fail to go on, he is a project with terrific physical talent like Osweiler was, though Osweiler was a better foot athlete.

Draft Projection

Mettenberger is a day three prospect that has the physical upside that might get him into the latter part of day two.  His inconsistency when it comes to accuracy and the fact he is not someone who makes the guys around him better but is just a means to an end leaves a lot to be desired.  Opposing teams are going to make him beat them with his arm until he proves he can do it.  That said, Mettenberger is coming into his second year as the fulltime starter and with the offensive playmakers they have, he could make a significant leap forward as a quarterback.  If he can make a big step forward this year, the LSU offense takes on a whole new dynamic and makes them an incredibly dangerous team as well as vaulting Mettenberger up draft boards.  He could easily move up into the top 75 or top 50 with a great year and real development as a passer as well as possibly becoming the best quarterback in the SEC.