Thursday, December 19, 2013

Scouting the 2014 NFL Draft: Zach Mettenberger

I am getting an earlier start on scouting the 2014 NFL Draft, as I'd like to do more of them, and some quarterbacks seasons are already over, so there is no more tape to study. The first guy that I will take a look at had a disappointing end to his year as he tore his ACL. Zach Mettenberger of LSU took a huge step forward this season. He flashed his talent last year, especially against Alabama, but this year, he consistently put big points on the board for the Tigers. It's a shame that LSU did not have a dominating defense for the first time in a while, and the ACL tear is obviously a pretty big bummer too. I took a look at his performance against Mississippi State as well as his games against UAB and Florida.

So the first thing that stands out is the arm. He has the physical tools to make all the throws at the next level. When he plants his feet and fires, he really drives the ball down field to his receivers. He makes this throw look effortless.

That is a beautiful ball. And here is another example of why scouts will fall in love with him:

He puts the ball right in there down the sideline and drops it into his receiver's hands. You cannot throw a better ball than that.

It is impossible to talk about how good Mettenberger can look without mentioning his receivers. I love how Odell Beckham Jr. snatches the ball out of the air. Attacking the ball is one of the most important features for a wide receiver, and he has shown a great ability to attack the ball with his hands instead of waiting for it to come to him. It's something that attracted me to Alshon Jeffery while in college, because it's a skill that carries over to the pro level when coverages are going to be much tighter. Here is an excellent example of that.

Yeah, that's really fun to watch. Oh, and Jarvis Landry isn't bad either.

Having those two guys will make any quarterback look pretty good. Which brings us to the bad...

A big issue that I have with Mettenberger is his ability to anticipate receivers getting open. Instead of trusting his receivers,, he waits until they are open to throw the ball. By the time the ball gets there, the defenders have closed the distance which makes the catch much more difficult for his receivers.

Beckham is able to make this catch, but if he throws that ball earlier, it is much easier for him. Instead he battles the defender and has to make a very good play on the ball. In college, the difference in talent between his receivers and the defenders they are facing is much larger than it will be at the next level.

His accuracy is not great. He struggles putting touch on the ball. On these two throws, he has open receivers but overthrows both of them.

The screen pass seems worse, because he badly overthrows it and it turns into an interception, but at least he had the excuse of pressure on that throw. With the ball down the sideline to Beckham, it's just poor footwork that causes him to miss his open receiver. He consistently misses on passes where he is forced to put touch on the ball.

When throwing over the middle, it seems like he is always throwing his receivers high. This is a major issue, because throwing low/short leads to incompletions, but throwing high/long leads to interceptions.

This is a pass that lands incomplete, but it is in very dangerous territory as there are plenty of Florida defenders around that football, and he gives his receiver no chance to make a play on the football.

On top of that, he underthrows balls down the field despite having plenty of arm strength. He still managed a 65% completion rate, but he doesn't make it easy on his receivers. He doesn't do a great job of leading them open, and it's much more a testament to the receiving corps' talents that their passing game was so potent this year.

At first glance, Mettenberger seems like a good prospect. He has great arm strength, good size, and enough mobility to survive. His stats look impressive enough that you could convince yourself that this is a guy to build a team around, but the more I watched, the more problems I saw. The biggest issue is the accuracy. This is not something that I would bet on being able to fix. He's been throwing the ball for 15 years, and it's not there yet, so I really don't see it happening at this point. Overall, he has a lot of arm talent, but the accuracy issues are too much for me to be willing to take a chance on him outside of a late-round flier. I fully expect a team to fall in love with the arm strength and take him off the board much earlier than that, but I do not see him as a starting caliber quarterback in the NFL.

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