How a Torn ACL Impacts the NFL Draft Stock of Zach Mettenberger

Curt Popejoy@@nfldraftboardContributor IDecember 4, 2013

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 09:  Zach Mettenberger #8 of the LSU Tigers celebrates a second quarter touchdown against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 9, 2013 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It has been a busy news day for NFL draft prospects, especially for those who play quarterback. ESPN's SportsCenter Twitter account put this out Tuesday night.

THIS JUST IN: LSU QB Zach Mettenberger has torn ACL; will not play in bowl game. (via @caplannfl)

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 4, 2013

This is a crushing blow for LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who hurt his knee against Arkansas, but was hopeful he would be able to return for the Tiger's bowl game.

Mettenberger had been having a career season with 3,082 yards passing and 22 touchdowns. His level of improvement in terms of his NFL draft stock was among the most impressive of any of the top quarterback prospects.

The LSU quarterback is a bit of a dinosaur in that he is very much a traditional dropback quarterback. His pocket presence and vision through his reads were both areas of concern coming into the year. His mechanics being what they are meant he needed to be able to make quicker reads and progressions. Nevertheless, this year, he had improved almost across the board.

Nov 29, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger (8) passes the ball against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the second half at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Arkansas 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor

From footwork to ball placement, everything was better. In fact, having watched him since his time at Butler Community College, his growth as a complete quarterback has been nothing short of astonishing.

Nevertheless, if it is confirmed that Mettenberger's ACL is torn and surgery is required, his focus must turn to recovery. Medical technology has made it so recovery from an injury like this is faster and more complete than ever before. The reality is, however, that Mettenberger probably won't be ready to be a quarterback again until late summer, maybe even early fall.

What that means for him is his rookie season is going to be a wash. In a class of quarterbacks who were dwindling, Mettenberger had a real possibility of being one of the first three or four quarterbacks off the board, and a first-round pick. Perhaps higher than his talent would warrant, but it's important to understand this is about what teams think, not what the masses think. 

Nov 23, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Zach Mettenberger (8) looks to pass the ball against the Texas A&M Aggies in the first half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor

At this point, there are really two ways to look at his draft stock. If you are a team that was planning to draft Mettenberger to play in 2014, you either remove him from your board or, at the very least, slide him down considerably.

However, if the plan was to draft him as a long-term replacement for a veteran, there's no reason to move him at all. I have a second-round grade on Mettenberger, and this injury doesn't change that. Some team could end up getting a real steal if Mettenberger were to slide to the third round.

At this point, the only thing anyone should be thinking about is how this young man can make a full and speedy recovery. There will be months to argue his NFL potential, but rest assured, some team is going to take a shot on him and could end up with a star.