Saturday's marquee matchup will take place in Athens, Ga. The No.6-ranked LSU Tigers will hit the road to take on the No.9-ranked Georgia Bulldogs. This game is littered with future NFL players, including two senior signal-callers. LSU's Zach Mettenberger, who began his college career with the Bulldogs, and Georgia's Aaron Murray have played very well early in the season and they have even generated some discussion as Heisman Trophy candidates.
I reached out to five NFL personnel executives to gauge their opinion on these two high-profile passers. I posed the following question: Which quarterback is the better pro prospect? Here are their answers:
Executive 1: Mettenberger
"Right now, I'll say Mettenberger. I wasn't really high on either guy coming into the season, but Mettenberger has stepped up his play. He has more ability and upside than Murray. I feel like I know exactly what Murray is, while Mettenberger is just scratching the surface."
Executive 2: Mettenberger
"Mettenberger. He's bigger, stronger and has shown the ability to make more NFL throws. He's really improved from last year. I think Murray will have a long career as a backup quarterback, but I feel like he's reached his peak."
Executive 3: Mettenberger
"I prefer Mettenberger. He's not a great athlete, but he's doing a better job navigating inside the pocket. He can make all the throws, and his ball placement has been much better this year. (First-year LSU offensive coordinator) Cam Cameron has really helped his game. He's got the ideal arm and build for the next level."
Executive 4: Mettenberger
"I think Mettenberger is the better player, but to be honest, I don't really believe either guy is in the top tier of quarterbacks for this upcoming class."
Executive 5: Mettenberger
"I wish Mettenberger had the same intangibles as Murray, but I would still choose him. He has a huge arm, he's athletic inside the pocket, he's made huge strides reading coverage and his decision-making has improved."
Verdict: Zach Mettenberger received all five votes.
Conclusion: If you just looked at their career passing statistics, Aaron Murray (11,131 passing yards, 102 touchdowns) would be a slam-dunk choice over Zach Mettenberger (3,727 passing yards, 23 touchdowns). However, when it comes to quarterbacks, NFL evaluators don't put much stock in gaudy college statistics. Instead, they focus on factors like accuracy, arm strength, poise and decision-making. Also, despite the success of undersized quarterbacks such as Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, size is still very important to most evaluators.
Upside can be a dangerous word in scouting, but that is a key component of player evaluation. In this comparison, Mettenberger is being rewarded for his potential, whereas Murray is being labeled as a finished product. There is still plenty of time for these executives to change their minds, but it seems like Mettenberger has a pretty decisive advantage at the moment.