Hoards of NFL coaches and scouts will flock to Baton Rouge today for the annual LSU Pro Day, where several Tigers will vie to show they have what it takes to reach the next level.
The event includes six juniors who declared early for the draft and the handful of graduating seniors, none more prominent than quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who makes his highly anticipated return from ACL surgery at the end of last season.
Mettenberger is expected to do all drills, including throwing, at Pro Day.
“This is a giant day for Mettenberger,” said Larry Holder, Times Picayune | Nola.com New Orleans Saints beat reporter. “That’s the one guy a lot of teams are really intrigued by. … I think people are ready to see if he’s as advertised and if he’s going to throw and do all the drills.”
Mettenberger tore his ACL in the Tigers’ final regular-season game of the year against Arkansas, but not before completing 64.9 percent of his passes for 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns through 12 prior games.
ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski recently listed Mettenberger as the No. 2 quarterback in the draft class behind only UCF quarterback Blake Bortles. Fellow ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has the former LSU passer at No. 8 in his list of QBs.
Holder said Mettenberger’s injury sets him as an early second round pick at best, but he could fall as far as the third round with a poor showing at Pro Day — a reality several players have already come to realize.
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was considered by many to be the top quarterback prospect in the upcoming draft, coming in at No. 8 on ESPN analyst Todd McShay’s list of the top 32 players just prior to his pro day. But following a disappointing showing, Bridgewater slipped to No. 13.
“You’re supposed to have good pro days,” Holder said. “It’s designed for players to be showcased. That’s the way pro day is. … If you perform well on a pro day, that’s expected.”
Mettenberger most likely won’t be on the Saints’ radar come draft day, according to Holder, but he does see considerable interest directed at the other end of Mettenberger’s throws with LSU wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
In his latest Saints mock draft, Holder put Landry going to New Orleans in the second round, assuming he can bounce back from a disappointing NFL Combine performance where he ran the slowest time of any wide receiver and left early because of an injury believed to be a hamstring pull. Holder also put Landry as the LSU player with the most to lose on Wednesday if he doesn’t show the combine was just a fluke.
“I think he might need to run a little faster than he did at the combine,” Holder said. “Before that, there were people viewing him as a better prospect than Beckham. At the combine, Beckham’s stock rose and Landry’s stock kind of fell, and a lot of that had to do with their 40 times.”
Beckham’s stock has been skyrocketing this offseason. On the off chance he falls to the Saints at the No. 27 pick, they’ll take him in the first round,
Holder said, but more likely he’ll go to the New York Jets at No. 18 or the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 23.
“I don’t really think this Pro Day is going to help [Beckham] or hurt him,” Holder said. “I think a lot of teams already view him pretty highly.”
Beckham and Landry became the first LSU wide receiving tandem to record a pair of 1,000-yard seasons, with Landry leading the way at 1,193 yards and 10 touchdowns. Beckham hauled in 1,152 yards and eight touchdowns.
Several other NFL hopefuls will be in attendance Wednesday, including linebacker Lamin Barrow, running back Jeremy Hill, fullback J.C. Copeland and defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson.
Hill and Copeland are Kiper’s fourth ranked running back and fullback, respectively, but Holder specifically said LSU offensive guard Trai Turner is someone who could see considerable rise in stock today.
“If some team gets him in the mid rounds and he performs well, lifts well, does all the drills well, I think he’s a guy that maybe comes in and wins a job in his rookie year,” Holder said. “I think he’s kind of had a steady pattern as far as what teams are looking for.”