Tennessee takes a QB with the 178th overall pick in round 6: LSU's Zach Mettenberger. Now a Ken Whisenhunt project.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 10, 2014
Mettenberger was at one time considered an early round pick, but he lasted until Day 3 and the sixth overall round. However, that shouldn't stop the former LSU signal-caller from being considered the Titans' quarterback of the future.
For starters, Mettenberger has all the tools to be an extremely productive NFL quarterback. Dion Caputi of National Football Post had this to say about him:
Jake Locker hasn't proven he's the long-term answer yet. Zach Mettenberger has the strongest arm in the draft & improved his decision making— Dion Caputi (@nfldraftupdate) May 10, 2014
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller compared Mettenberger to San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in the video below:
It's that big arm and improved accuracy that make the selection of Mettenberger so intriguing. However, it's the issues of current starting quarterback Jake Locker that truly make Mettenberger the future quarterback in Tennessee.
The biggest problem with Locker since he was the eighth overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft has been his durability. One look at the chart below shows just how fragile of a player he has been:
|Year||Games Started||Games Played||Games Missed|
Locker's rookie year in 2011 was used as a "redshirt" year while he learned behind starter Matt Hasselbeck. Since he became the full-time starter, though, he has missed a whopping 14 games. And he'll actually enter the 2014 preseason recovering from an injury to his right foot.
That could be the ideal time for Mettenberger to overtake Locker on the depth chart.
With Locker, there are also the issues with his accuracy. He's completed only 57.2 percent of his career passes over his three years in the league. While he did complete just over 60 percent of his passes last year, he still hasn't shown the accuracy an NFL quarterback needs on a consistent basis.
Now, Mettenberger isn't the poster boy for accuracy; he definitely had his issues during his college career. However, he at least showed major improvement during his last year and should continue to improve in that area.
Is Zach Mettenberger the quarterback of the future in Tennessee?
Finally, there's the whole contract issue with Locker. The Titans decided to not pick up his fifth-year option, making the 2014 season a make-or-break year. Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean said the decision wasn't surprising, pointing to Locker's injury past and the cost of the option.
All of these problems with Locker point to the 2014 season being of the utmost importance for his career in Tennessee. The problem is that his recovery from his foot surgery could force him to play catch-up during training camp and the preseason.
And if Mettenberger uses his draft position as motivation to continue to improve, it might not even be up to Locker whether or not he keeps his starting job with the Titans. It's clear that Tennessee obviously loved him, because head coach Ken Whisenhunt reportedly considered drafting him earlier (h/t ESPN's Paul Kuharsky):
Whiz on ZM: Considered him earlier. Sixth round, we felt had to make a move to get him. Heard others were trying to move up. #Titans— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) May 10, 2014
So the question really isn't whether or not Mettenberger is the quarterback of the future for the Titans, as all signs point to Locker facing an extremely tough uphill battle to remain the starter. It's more about figuring out exactly when that future will take place for Tennessee.