Zach Mettenberger convinced the Tennessee Titans his knee was healthy enough to spend a sixth-round pick on him in the 2014 NFL draft. The former LSU star will have to be a little more convincing with his performance to keep that faith.
Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean was among many to note Mettenberger's struggles at his first practice of Titans minicamp over the weekend. Wearing a brace over his surgically repaired left knee, Mettenberger looked decidedly like a player still in the recovery process from a debilitating injury.
"I am not moving as fluidly as I have in the past but I am working hard to get back there," Mettenberger said. "Being in the brace for two months, trying to learn how to walk, you lose a lot of muscle…I just have to keep working."
Mettenberger, 22, tore his left ACL in the final game of his senior season at LSU. A 6'5", 224-pound signal-caller with an ideal body type, elite arm strength and experience against SEC defenses, Mettenberger was considered by most a mid-round talent before the injury.
Though his balky knee sent his stock into flux, Mettenberger impressed many by recovering in time to participate in LSU's pro day, where he left with glowing reviews. ESPN's Ron Jaworski even went as far as to rank Mettenberger the second-best quarterback in the 2014 class, ahead of eventual first-rounders Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater.
Come draft weekend, though, the positive vibes quickly dissipated. Concerns about Mettenberger's recovery, his questionable statistical profile and a diluted urine sample at the NFL combine sent him flying down the board. The Titans eventually stopped his fall at No. 178 overall—far behind where anyone expected.
ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky thinks Tennessee may have found a steal by landing him so late in the draft:
Mettenberger enters a quarterback situation very much in flux. Jake Locker has been oft-injured and has done little to prove himself when healthy since being taken No. 8 overall in 2011. Backup Charlie Whitehurst fits coach Ken Whisenhunt's noted love of big, strong-armed quarterbacks, but he's been miserable anytime he's received a significant sample of snaps.
If Mettenberger was going to fall into the sixth round, this was about the best landing spot. Tennessee already indicated it will not pick up Locker's option for 2015, Whitehurst is a stopgap and with former Raiders castoff Tyler Wilson the only other quarterback listed, Mettenberger might get a chance as soon as next season.
That is, of course, if he can get his body back in enough shape to stay on the field.
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