Courtesy of Draft insider, Tony Pauline, the Vikings are apparently "heavily leaning towards" LSU QB Zach Mettenberger in the 2nd round of the upcoming NFL Draft. In the fully detailed report, it is said that the Vikings are leaning towards Mettenberger in the 2nd round because they are targeting a linebacker in the 1st round, particularly Buffalo's OLB Khalil Mack. Rotoworld had this to say about the report.....
The Vikes desperately need a franchise signal-caller, but they also have a huge need for an edge rusher capable of disrupting opposing passing games. Coach Mike Zimmer's nights are presumably interrupted with nightmares of being helplessly carved up by Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford. Mack would afford the team a massive upgrade on the outside if Minnesota allots Mettenberger a grade not far below the top four QBs. Mettenberger could be a good fit in Norv Turner's vertical passing game, as Rotoworld's Josh Norris discussed in a recent "Draft Needs" video.
First of all, I find it quite humurous that Rotoworld failed to mention Smokin' Jay when they were referring to the QBs in the NFC North that are presumably giving Coach Zimmer nightmares. Da Bears!
Secondly, it's hard to argue with the logic of this report. Anyone who watched the Vikings on a regular basis last year could clearly see that their linebacker corps severely lacked speed and overall playmaking ability. While Mack doesn't have quite the polish and experience playing in coverage as someone such as C.J Mosley, what he does have is a very athletic build and a non-stop motor to rush the quarterback. NFL Draft guru Mike Mayock had this to say about Khalil Mack when he talked to KFAN a little over a month ago....
Khalil Mack can play anywhere in the front. If you put the tape on against Ohio State, he dominates Ohio State like nobody I’ve ever seen dominate them. He’s explosive off the edge, he’s tough, he’s twitchy, he’s got a little edge about him. When I watch him on tape I feel like he’s pissed off at the world, and I like that. Then you put on a tape, I think it was Kent State, and he drops into coverage like a safety, reads the quarterback’s eyes, undercuts a route, one-handed interception. You talk about a guy like Clowney, who’s just got superhuman abilities, versus this kid, if I had a choice between the two, I think I’m going Mack.
Considering that by far Mack's best skill is his ability to rush the passer from a standing position, it seems odd that a team who runs a 4-3 defense such as the Vikings would be targeting him. Playing him as a somewhat traditional 4-3 OLB would surely be a huge misuse and underutilization of his skills, so by my estimation, this means one of two things....
1.) Zimmer plans to transition to a 3-4 defense at some point
2.) Zimmer plans to use Mack as a hybrid 4-3 OLB like the Broncos do with Von Miller
If I had to guess, the 2nd option seems much more likely. The Vikings have arguably the most athletic defensive front in the entire NFL, and switching to a 3-4 defense that generally puts more emphasis on bigger and stronger linemen rather than athletic/finesse ones would seem counterintuitive. This could all be a moot point however, because as it currently stands, it seems more than likely that the Vikings would be needing to trade up to land the versatile pass rusher.
As for Mettenberger, there may not be a more polarizing QB entering this draft with the exception of Johnny Manziel. Those who like him usually point to his 6'5" frame, strong arm, willingness to stand tall in the pocket, and ability to throw to the intermediate/deep parts of the field with accuracy.
Those who don't like him however, usually point to his very limited mobility, string of off-the-field issues and drug-related rumors, recently torn ACL and injury risks moving forward, and somewhat questionable decision-making when throwing the ball.
When it comes to what some of the head honchos think of Mettenberger, well-known ESPN NFL Analyst, Ron Jaworski, currently has Mettenberger as the 2nd best QB entering the draft. This is what he had to say....
He’s the wild card for me in this draft. We’re going to find out at his pro day (April 9) how he is health-wise coming off of ACL surgery. But looking at the tape, I see an NFL skill set. Scott Brunner is coaching him up. Brunner is the same guy who worked with Joe Flacco coming out of college. I see very similar traits between Mettenberger and Flacco. At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, he has the size teams want. I want to see more at his pro day, but he has a big arm on tape. He can make every throw from the pocket. That said, he’s a little inconsistent and he struggles at time with his footwork.
Considering that Jaworski has always openly expressed his love for tall, strong-armed pocket passers who attack defenses down the field, it shouldn't really come as a surprise that he loves Mettenberger. That's why it also shouldn't have come as much of a surprise when Jaws said that he didn't have much love for one, Johnny Football.
Perhaps an even more respected NFL analyst that appears to really like Mettenberger is NFL Films', Greg Cosell. This is what Rotoworld had to report on Cosell's comments....
NFL Films' Greg Cosell believes LSU QB Zach Mettenberger is the best prototypical pocket passer in this class. "Now the question becomes, 'do you value that?'" Cosell asked. "He's essentially a big, strong armed, intermediate and vertical pocket passer with a natural toughness to look down the gun barrel." Cosell also gave some credit to Mettenberger's ability to move, saying he is not a statue and can create a bit of space, and his willingness to make tough throws. He tends to fit what the Vikings and Norv Turner are (likely) looking for.
From my standpoint, Cosell appears to have hit the nail on the head with his comments. How much you like Mettenberger as a QB will very likely come down to how much you value mobility in your QB. With the recent wave of young, athletic QBs that have entered the NFL such as Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, and RG3, along with the recent innovation of the read-option and pistol formations in the NFL, the emphasis on QBs who can make plays with their legs outside of the pocket is becoming more and more important (or at least, desired).
Based on which traits are typically emphasized in Norv Turner's offense however, it would appear as though mobility is very near the bottom of the totem pole. The QB needs to be quick with completing his 3-step and 5-step drops, but other than that, not much is asked from a mobility standpoint. When you combine that with the fact that Norv's offense typically asks the QB to push the ball down the field with regularity, it would appear as though Mettenberger's value would (and should) be higher to the Vikings than just about any other team in the NFL. Norv's offense just seems like the perfect system to help accentuate his strengths and mask his weaknesses.
When you end up taking everything into consideration, the question shouldn't be whether or not Mettenberger is a great fit for the Vikings, but instead the question should be whether or not his personal issues and injury-risk will prevent him from ever achieving his full potential. With Mike Zimmer at the helm of the ship, and Matt Cassel there to help show him how to properly carry himself as a leader and a professional, I have very little doubt that Mettenberger is worth the risk.