Matt Barkley: The Next Drew Brees?
Drew Brees is going to walk into the Hall of Fame when he first becomes eligible. Over the years, he has proven to be one of the games best quarterbacks. He has topped the 4,000-yard mark six times in his career. Last season, he set the all-time single season mark with 5,476 passing yards. Brees did all this despite entering the league with the label of having a weak arm. Now, Matt Barkley is facing a similar problem.
There are many of similarities between Barkley and Brees. Both quarterbacks have been criticized for their lack of arm strength and lack of ideal height. They also have each had a prolific college career, know how to use proper throwing lands and deliver the ball with sound technique. It's because of these similarities that Barkley has a chance to follow a similar career path as Brees.
Matt Barkley has received some negative attention regarding the strength of his arm. The biggest knock surrounds the zip and velocity he generates on his throws. Here's what Richard Langford of Bleacher Report had to say:
Barkley does not have a weak arm, but on the NFL level, it is subpar. It is not on the deep throws where this is going to hurt him. Barkley can hang up some nice deep passes. He puts a little air under his passes, and he can drop them on target. It is on the mid-level throws where he is going to struggle. The window to complete outs and crosses in the NFL in tiny. To complete these throws, it takes a combination of arm strength and accuracy.
Others, like James Christensen, have echoed the thoughts of Lanford: " (Barkley) doesn’t have the strongest arm velocity wise, but has shown the ability to make the NFL throws".
Drew Brees dealt with similar criticism when he entered the draft. His perceived lack of arm strength contributed to his draft-day slide. However, Brees used other parts of his game to overcome the lack of elite arm strength.
There's more than a few reasons both quarterbacks are able to overcome the perceived lack of arm strength. One of the biggest is their ability to use proper technique when they release the football. The images below show how both quarterbacks remain balanced in the pocket and drive off their back foot.
The area circled highlights the good knee bend that helps generate torque and keep the quarterback balanced. A balanced throwing motion increases velocity and helps with accuracy. Ball placement and accuracy are the other reasons Brees and Barkley succeed as quarterbacks.
Too often people focus on a player with a rocket arm rather than those who know how to locate the football. A perfectly placed ball is more important than a ball arriving with a ton of zip. The same can be said about the timing of a throw.
Understanding the offense, how to read defenses and releasing the ball with good timing are equally important. Barkley understands when to deliver the ball to his target, which helps limit the jump a defender can get on his pass.
Most NFL evaluators look for a quarterback in the height range of 6'3" to 6'5". Anybody below that range faces questions about his ability to see over the offensive line. Shorter quarterbacks typically have a hard time locating open targets because their vision is obstructed by the larger players in front. This was a major issue facing Drew Brees when he entered the draft.
Matt Barkley will face similar questions as he goes through the draft process. The chart below shows that Barkley is listed at 6'2", but he appears much smaller on the field. Evaluators will take a close look at his measurements at events like the combine.
Despite their lack of size, both Barkley and Brees are effective because of the way they use throwing lanes. The images below show each quarterback moving in the pocket and delivering the ball through and open lane.
They don't identify these lanes by accident, as they rely on their knowledge of the offense to ensure they can locate those throwing lanes. This takes a high-level understanding of the game and tremendous timing with their receivers.
That timing is developed through countless hours spent practicing each play. This shows the leadership of both players. Brees and Barkley have the respect of their teammates and find the time to build relationships.
Drew Brees had a very impressive college career. He collected over 11,500 passing yards through three years of full-time work. During that stretch he led the Purdue Boilermakers to 24 victories and a few bowl appearances. Matt Barkley has had similar success during his college career.
Below is a breakdown of both players' career stats. I averaged Barkley's career totals to estimate what he'll produce this season. So, Barkley's numbers below are a projection of the final total for his career.
The idea of this article is to show that despite some areas of concern Matt Barkley is an elite quarterback prospect. Keep this comparison to Drew Brees in mind when April rolls around. I expect these concerns to pop up and hurt Barkley's draft stock. The fact is he just won't test as well as players like Logan Thomas and Tyler Wilson.
However, this could be just another example of NFL evaluators placing too much value on a player's physical abilities.
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