Athletes hate it, but sports journalists love it.
Comparing players to other similar players, a common practice done by many pundits, has its pros and cons, but ultimately if used correctly, can sometimes help foreshadow what type of performance a certain player may have.
As mentioned above, athletes typically respond to comparison questions by saying they want to be their own player, and while they respect the player they’re compared too, see certain things that are different about themselves.
Which is a completely rational and truthful answer. No two athletes are the same, and while some share similarities, there are always differences to counter them.
Rather than saying Joe Burrow is very similar to Zach Mettenberger, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Burrow is on a (somewhat) similar trajectory to Mettenberger.
Both were highly rated recruits out of high school. Both transferred to LSU following stints at blue blood FBS football schools, (Ohio State and Georgia) although Mettenberger had a year in junior college before transferring to LSU.
And while Mettenberger’s true first season only saw him throw 11 passes, he started all 13 games of his junior season just as Burrow did in 2018.
The stats for each players first season as starters are pretty close, with Mettenberger throwing for 2,609 yards, 12 touchdowns and completing 58.8 percent of his passes, while Burrow threw for 2,894 yards, 16touchdowns and completed 57.8 percent of his passes.
The rushing stats are vastly different however, with Mettenberger only rushing for 44 yards compared to Burrow’s 593.
Coming into his second season as the starter, the expectations ratcheted up for Mettenberger, just as they have for Burrow, and Mettenberger rose to the occasion. He threw for 3,082 yards, 22 touchdowns and completed 64.8 percent of his passes, a significant improvement from his junior campaign.
Many expect Burrow to make a similar improvement, and looking at how Mettenberger progressed could be a good indicator of how Burrow will as well.
Burrow will have some great weapons on the outside just like Mettenberger did, (Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry) with junior receiver Justin Jefferson, sophomore’s Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall Jr. and others.
He’ll also have a stable of running backs who can contribute similar to what Mettenberger had, (Jeremy Hill, Terrence Magee, Alfred Blue) with junior running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and the freshman duo of John Emery Jr. and Tyrion Davis-Price.
Another key factor will be the power that Burrow will have in offensive decisions. In Mettenberger’s final season, he had the ability to diagnose coverages and make changes to receiver routes or protections if necessary. According to LSU coach Ed Orgeron, the same could be in store for Burrow.
“We can put a lot on him. Joe’s tough, Joe can make decisions. We’ll let him do a lot of things at the line of scrimmage – let him check out of plays, let him handle the offense in a lot of situations, going hurry up,” Orgeron said.
Burrow will carry heavy expectations into the 2019 season, and they are well warranted. The talent at receiver and running back is plentiful, and if the offensive line can stay healthy, don’t be surprised if Burrow’s passing numbers in 2019 mirror that of Mettenberger’s in 2013.