A Statistical Breakdown of Titans Rookie Zach Mettenberger

Frederick Breedon

Is Mettenberger more talented than his draft position suggests?

Most of the time, you wouldn't think a 6th round pick quarterback would have much of a chance of starting in the NFL. Especially not his rookie season. For that reason, Mettenberger claiming he was gunning for the starting job in a recent interview might have ruffled some feathers. One would expect any player to say he wanted to start, however, so the interview in and of itself is a non issue. But it rekindled something I have been thinking about since the Titans drafted Mettenberger with the 178th pick. Is he better than his draft position suggests?

6th round quarterbacks are typically drafted that late for a variety of reasons. Often, they've put up good numbers, but played against inferior competition, making it hard to project them at the next level. Sometimes, they come from an unconventional offense, and may need some work to translate into an NFL player. Sometimes, a 6th round QB has a bevy of physical tools, but just hasn't put it all together yet. Sometimes, a 6th round QB has good stats, maybe even against good competition, but doesn't have the measurables that scouts desire from a prototypical QB.

How does Mettenberger look in light of those issues?

The Basics

Zach Mettenberger is a 6'5", 235 lb quarterback who played at LSU. That's prototypical height and weight. He also played in the SEC West, where he faced the best college football defenses in the country year in and year out.

One scouting report says of Mettenberger,

Strong arm to plant and fire, possessing rocket arm strength and plus velocity to deliver frozen ropes. Makes throws to the opposite hash look easy and trusts his arm.

Good placement to give his  targets a chance and can take some off his fastball when needed.

Quicker eyes and timing to work through his progressions and make the best read.

Very good anticipation

Balanced with good weight distribution in his release. Stands tall in the pocket and stares down the gun barrel. Keeps his eyes elevated and downfield to deliver in the face of pressure.

And while this isn't intended to be a film breakdown, I think most who have watched his tape agree with those sentiments for the most part.

So, Mettenberger has prototypical size, he played against the best competition in the country, he has fantastic arm strength, good accuracy, he gets through reads well, has good eye level, good anticipation, and good footwork. So far, that sounds like the description of a 1st or 2nd round QB.

The Stats

Maybe Mettenberger's weakness, then, is that he just didn't produce?

Mettenberger was the starting quarterback for his last 2 seasons at LSU, tallying only 11 attempts before 2012. In his career, he completed 61.8% of his passes for 5,783 yards, 8.8 yards/attempt, 35 TDs, and 18 INTs. Those numbers are good, but Cam Cameron took over as LSU's offensive coordinator for Mettenberger's senior season and installed a more conventional "pro style" offense that serves as a decent comparison for Ken Whisenhunt's offense in Tennessee. So, how did he do in his senior year?

192 completions in 296 attempts for 64.9% completion percentage, 3082 yards, 10.4 Y/A, 22 TDs, 8 INTs.

He improved in his senior year in every metric available, and put up what I consider to be borderline elite numbers.

In addition to his excellent completion percentage, his yards per attempt suggest that he probably wasn't inflating completion % with screens and short passes (like Derek Carr, who threw 33% screens, managed 69% completions, but only produced 7.7 Y/A). He also did a good job taking care of the ball, only throwing 8 interceptions all season.

These stats aren't top 5 overall, and he was throwing the ball to an elite pair of WRs, but these stats taken alone have the look of a 2nd or 3rd round QB to me.

Conclusion

Overall, Mettenberger seems to have good size, arm strength, accuracy, and he has produced at a high level. He's played in a pro-style offense, and against the top competition in college football.

He undoubtedly saw his stock drop with a torn ACL that he has apparently recovered very well from, and there were some off the field questions that might have scared some teams away early in the draft.

That being said, from an ability and statistical perspective, it seems to me that the Titans have drafted a QB in the 6th round that looks more like a 2nd-3rd round QB. Mettenberger has the tools and college production to suggest that he has a real chance to become a starting QB in the NFL. More so than most other QBs drafted in the 6th round.

He'll just have to be patient. The job is Jake Locker's to lose this year.

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