Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger saw their college careers begin together and end prematurely after suffering torn ACLs.
The quarterbacks each will have their names called when they officially become pros this week in the NFL draft. Both could be picked on Friday night.
The two were Elite 11 quarterbacks who enrolled early at Georgia in January 2009 and competed for the starting job in the spring of 2010.
Mettenberger, the Oconee County High graduate, finished his career at LSU after being dismissed at Georgia. Murray went on to start 52 games for the Bulldogs.
They crossed paths again at the NFL combine.
“I got to talk to him,” Murray said. “He’s looking good, he’s feeling good with his knee. We’re just both anxious to see where we’re going to end up.”
Both are projected to go as early as the second to third round.
The three-day NFL draft begins tonight with the first round and rounds two and three are Friday night.
Murray said he’s talked closely with Cleveland, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Miami, Oakland and Kansas City.
“There’s about six teams we feel pretty good about, but who knows come draft time what exactly is going to happen,” he said.
He said he had private workouts with St. Louis, Cleveland and Tennessee.
Mettenberger plans to spend the draft with family. His mother Tammy is an administrative assistant in the UGA football office.
He’s had conversations with at least eight teams in the last two weeks, according to agent Tom Kleine, and has worked out for Detroit and Tennessee and met with Minnesota and Oakland at his pro day.
Mettenberger has some red flags that teams will consider.
He plead guilty to two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery weeks after being dismissed by Georgia. Then this week, reports surfaced that Mettenberger had a diluted urine sample at the combine, which is considered a positive drug test. Joe Linta, another agent, told CBSSports.com that Mettenberger was following doctor’s orders for cramping after ACL surgery when he was told to increase his potassium levels and drink excessive amounts of water.
Mettenberger has turned down interview requests leading up to the draft, but addressed his road since Georgia that included a stop in junior college on the Fox Sports South show “The Panel”.
“There’s not an easy ride,” Mettenberger said. “It’s a roller coaster. You’ve got to be able to handle the highs and definitely deal with the lows and I think that’s something I can do very well.”
Former Cowboys general manager Gil Brandt ranked Mettenberger the No. 94 overall prospect and Murray No. 95 on NFL.com.
“Who knows who’s going to go where,” said Murray, who will be in his hometown of Tampa with family for the draft. “We’re all very different. Every quarterback brings their own little thing. It’s going to be a matter of if the team feels like your attributes fit their style of offense best.”
The 6-foot, 204-pound Murray and the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Mettenberger present “complete opposite” styles for teams, said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, who has the two among 10 quarterbacks with a grade in the first three rounds.
“Mettenberger has got as strong an arm as anybody in the draft,” Mayock said. “I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t go in the second round. He threw the ball tremendously well at his pro day. Looked like he recovered from the ACL, which was amazing 13 or 14 weeks out. When you draw a quarterback physically, I think he looks like what you want. I think he’s a little bit heavy-footed. I’d like to see him a little bit more athletic, but he’s got the hose that every team wants.”
Murray’s size and arm strength have been knocks against him, but his experience as a four-year starter and production in becoming the SEC’s all-time passing yardage leader (13,166 yards) have him looking NFL-ready in the eyes of some.
“I really gained a lot of respect for him this past year, the toughness that he showed, the leadership that he showed hanging in there when their team had no chance to win in games and just continuing to fight,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. “Keeping his team in games that they had no business remaining in with everybody that was injured around him.”
Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Murray are most ready to start Day 1 in the NFL, said Mayock, who said Murray probably will go in the third round.
“Murray, I thought probably knows how to play the position better than any quarterback in the draft,” Mayock said. “He’s got anticipation and timing probably because he’s had to since he was a young kid because he was never that big, overpowering arm quarterback. … Murray’s arm strength isn’t as good as you’d like it, but, man, accuracy, timing and anticipation, it’s what that position is all about. With the second and third rounders making it more recently, he’s all of a sudden been in a lot of conversations with a lot of teams about a potential starting quarterback.”
Mettenberger is expected to be the first ever Oconee County High player to go in the NFL draft.
Former Oconee County linebacker Tony Taylor, who played at Georgia, signed as an undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons in 2007.
Oconee County has played football for 45 years. Ben Bridges, the P.A. announcer at Oconee County and the voice of Warriors since 1992, remembers seeing Mettenberger’s “rifle of an arm” at Oconee.
“Back then, he threw the ball so hard that a lot of kids couldn’t catch it,” said Bridges, a 1984 graduate who played defensive tackle for Oconee County. “I’m just very proud of all the alumni and all the kids that played here. He learned from his mistake and went to LSU and did good. We’ll be cheering him on and very happy and proud for him.”