At some point, the New York Jets are going to have to look for a quarterback of the future.
Is that player available in this year's draft? We'll surely look back and say "yes" in a few years, but hindsight is 20/20. Right now, though, I can tell you for 100 percent certain that there's a quarterback in this year's class who can come in and start for the Jets.
I could be wrong on who it is, but even though this year's crop of rookie passers isn't considered one of the best in recent history like last year's was, it's impossible to ignore the smooth transitions of so many rookie quarterbacks of late.
Jets fans seem to agree that the quarterback is available, but no one can agree on who.
Some Jets fans want to see an electric playmaker such as West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.
@erikfrenz Geno!! I saw more exciting QB play in 1 WVU HALF then an entire Sanchez season. Fell asleep for a few minutes & missed 3 TD's!!!— Reaperjet (@ReaperJet) February 21, 2013
Others prefer the arm of Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib.
@erikfrenz Ryan Nassib, just like the way he throws the ball, I think he can have success in this league.— NY Sports Talk (@NYSportsTalk) February 21, 2013
Others still like the potential of Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel.
@erikfrenz I like to see the Jets draft E J Manuel in the mid rounds. I think he could develop into a very good QB.— John Theophil (@johntheophil) February 21, 2013
When it comes to finding a quarterback from this year's draft class who can start immediately for the Jets, the answer has to be USC quarterback Matt Barkley.
I'm sure some Jets fans would much rather the team take another path.
As in another path far, far off the course of taking another USC quarterback, perceived to be the same perilous path the team trod down with Sanchez.
Jets fans may not be too thrilled about that idea, but for purposes of employing the West Coast offense, Barkley is as close to a plug-and-play quarterback as there is in this year's class. He ran the offense for four years at USC and could take what he learned with him to New York.
He has the tools you look for in a quarterback for the West Coast offense:
- Quick decision-making
- Quick release
- Top-end accuracy on short and intermediate throws
- Ability to extend plays with legs is a plus
He is more NFL ready than other prospects in those regards.
This scouting report from NEPatriotsDraft.com really spells out just how ready he is:
Matt Barkley is a polished and poised QB prospect. He has shown the intelligence, leadership and pocket presence to make an immediate impact in the NFL. He is sharp pre-snap at identifying coverages/schemes. While he isn’t Andrew Luck, he has shown the ability to call his own plays and change things on the fly. He does a great job at processing information and making the right decision.
While his arm strength is only average, his mechanics and ability to manipulate the defense with his eyes, as well as the timing and anticipatory skills he has shown make up for it. Barkley is a tremendous leader and his teammates look up to him.
His biggest knock will be his height, as he is a shade under 6’2″, but Barkley is superb when rolling out and throwing on the move. Barkley endured a tough Senior season and with results not up to expectation it appeared the pressure started to get to Barkley. Despite a down Senior season Barkley still has all the tools to be a successful NFL QB.
After watching three games' worth of tape, it's easy to see why they feel this way.
In that regard, his performance against Utah was the one that stood out.
There was USC's usual heavy dose of screen passes, but some play-action passes and even a couple of deep throws were drawn into the playbook. His touchdown throw to tight end Randall Telfer at 3:33 in the above video is absolutely absurd—to Telfer's credit, so was the catch.
He showed the ability to go through his progressions. Watch the throw at the 2:37 mark—he threw a 20-yard strike to wide receiver Robert Woods after hanging in the pocket for around five seconds. Woods was likely his third read.
Beyond the throws themselves, Barkley was under some pressure, but showed the athleticism to move around and avoid pressure. His throw to wide receiver Marqise Lee at the 4:35 mark shows what he can do with defenders in his face. The throw at the 5:58 mark shows what he can do when he's on the move.
Not only all of that, but he also showed a great deal of poise to come back after the horrendous early start with the sack-fumble recovered for a touchdown.
This isn't 2010 and 2011; the Jets don't just need someone/anyone to push Mark Sanchez. They need someone who could potentially lead the Jets into the next generation, a quarterback who has potential in the West Coast offense.
Adding Barkley would be a great way to get Marty Mornhinweg's offense started off on the right foot.
That being said, is Barkley worth the No. 9 overall pick?
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller gave Barkley a second-round grade in comparing him to Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder.
Barkley has holes in his game, mostly due to injuries and a lack of arm strength to push the ball down the field. Christian Ponder was drafted highly out of Florida State with many of these same issues, so an NFL team still has time to fall in love with Barkley because his football IQ is very high, he has good pocket presence, and you love his ability to read a defense and make decisions.
His value may only line up in the second round, but with a thin quarterback class, there's a good chance Barkley goes higher than that.
He's being projected in the top 10 by plenty of mock draft experts, but he has also been projected by some to be taken in the second round. If the Jets want to get him, they probably shouldn't do it with the No. 9 pick, though.
Which quarterback would be the best fit for the Jets?
Regardless of the hundreds of ifs, ands and buts that get thrown around this time of year, if Jets fans want someone who can come in and effectively run their offense in 2013, Barkley would be the most sensible guy for the job.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained first-hand or via team press releases.