Zach Mettenberger had a devastating, sudden end to his college career when he tore his ACL in the LSU Tigers' regular-season finale. Despite that catastrophic injury, Mettenberger is a prototypical pocket passer and was bound to draw interest early in the 2014 NFL draft.
The talented, rocket-armed signal-caller has to be resting easier now that the Titans selected Mettenberger in Round 6 with the No. 178 overall pick, as the NFL's official Twitter feed revealed:
Mettenberger made massive strides in his senior season under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron in Baton Rouge. It's easier said than done to grasp pro-style concepts and execute Cameron's complex schemes against premier SEC competition, yet Mettenberger proved to be up to the tall task.
ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski rated Mettenberger the No. 2 QB in the 2014 draft class, per the NFL on ESPN's official Twitter account:
Ron Jaworski's Top 5 QBs in the 2014 NFL Draft: 1. Blake Bortles 2. Zach Mettenberger 3. Teddy Bridgewater 4. Derek Carr 5. Johnny Manziel— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) March 28, 2014
And that was even after Mettenberger blew out his knee, making it all the more of a bold projection. However, there's reason to believe that the ex-LSU star could indeed become the best passer amongst his incoming rookie peers.
There's no questioning whether or not Mettenberger can spin the pigskin, and his size is ideal for a franchise QB, as he measured 6'4" and weighed 229 pounds at LSU's pro day, per HoustonTexans.com's Deepi Sidhu.
NFL Network's Albert Breer has spoken with NFL talent evaluators who suggest an appropriate comparison for Mettenberger is a former No. 1 overall draft pick in Drew Bledsoe:
The NFL comp I've gotten most for Zach Mettenberger in talking to evaluators the last couple days is an interesting one: Drew Bledsoe.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 10, 2014
Tigers coach Les Miles expressed confidence that Mettenberger will be in the NFL for the long haul, per Drew Dougherty of HoustonTexans.com:
"He will play in the NFL a long time."- Miles on Mettenberger.— Drew Dougherty (@DoughertyDrew) April 9, 2014
Mobility will be an issue, though, and coming off major knee surgery might make Mettenberger wary as he stands in the pocket at the NFL level, facing an unprecedented pass rush.
What is Zach Mettenberger's likely NFL future?
As impressive as it was that Mettenberger was able to even work out at his pro day, that is a vastly different environment than a game situation. That scenario will determine just how far Mettenberger has come in his rehabilitation—both physically and mentally.
Tennessee is taking a bit of a gamble on a player who has just one strong college season under his belt. Mettenberger also had NFL-caliber receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry to throw to, not to mention Jeremy Hill in the backfield. This pick is all about upside, and in that regard Mettenberger is worth it.
Mettenberger doesn't have to start right away—from a physical standpoint, he might not even be ready to. The situation is set up so that he can learn the ropes while he's groomed as a prospective long-term answer at the most important position.
As long as the Titans can surround him with a strong supporting cast and buy into him as the future face of the franchise, nothing short of bad health should stop Mettenberger from thriving in the pros.