Who Could We See as the First QB off the Board in April?
While Matt Barkley is still projected as a top-five prospect, he may not even be the first QB off the board in the 2013 NFL Draft. Barkley has long been considered the most talented snap-caller in this year's class, but his play through four weeks has not done much to help his case. After all, through four weeks in 2010, the top QB prospect was Jimmy Clausen, and 2011's was Jake Locker.
One of the reasons that Barkley has lost momentum is the unbelievable talent that he is surrounded with. Silas Redd was a an All Big-10 selection before he transferred to USC, and Redd is the least threatening option in the Trojans' offense. His two favorite targets, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, were both preseason All-Americans, and their offense has still looked pedestrian at times against three poor defenses and an unproven Stanford Cardinal team. While one test is hardly significant, Barkley's stat-line against Stanford was extremely discouraging as he looked incapable of leading a game-tying drive with three minutes left. He also made horrendous decisions that resulted in turnovers and points for Stanford.
Could this be a sign of things to come for USC? They still have to go to Washington and UCLA, plus meetings with Oregon and Notre Dame in November. I could see the Trojans dropping two or three more games as the season closes. If this is the case, any shot Barkley has at the Heisman will fade away, as will his draft stock. With his size and arm strength in question, it will take a big second half of the season for Barkley to secure an early spot in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Another reason that Barkley's value has fallen in the first few weeks of the season is his competition at QB. Between Geno Smith, Tyler Bray, AJ McCarron and Tyler Wilson, there has been an emergence of other talent in the 2013 Draft Class. All four also possess prototypical arm strength and size that Barkley lacks.
Smith has put up numbers that are similar to RG3's through four weeks last year, has a monster arm and is built like Cam Newton. He has yet to throw an interception and has looked great running the high-octane West Virginia Offense. He checks it down, uses his tight ends and takes calculated deep shots, which leads to the best completion percentage and TD-to-Interception ratio in the country.
If Smith is not traditional enough for you, Tennessee's Tyler Bray, Alabama's AJ McCarron and Arkansas' Tyler Wilson have emerged as the best QB prospects from the SEC. The Southeastern Conference has never produced great quarterbacks, but this class is different. All three face tough tests the rest of the way, but have looked efficient in their small sample size.
Tyler Bray has brought the Volunteers back to relevancy, and loves to look to his big play weapon, Justin Hunter. Derek Dooley has a top-ten pass offense and a quarterback with a monster arm. That should give the Vols some hope when they go to Athens, facing off against #5 UGA. (CBS, 3:30 EST) This could be a coming out party for Bray, who will be leaned on heavily against Georgia, whose primary defensive holes are in the secondary.
AJ McCarron is beginning to look like the star of an Alabama offensive attack that has put up 42 PPG so far this season. While they only average around 225 yards through the air, McCarron has completed nearly 65 percent of his passes with 10 yards per attempt. Of all the QB prospects, McCarron and Smith have been the best decision makers under center in all of college football this season. He is the beneficiary of a great offensive line and defenses that have to respect the play action, but with a touchdown thrown every 8 attempts, it looks like McCarron has shed the title of game manager.
While Arkansas' team is nowhere near what it was projected to be, they still have 2012 1st Team All-SEC Tyler Wilson under center. Wilson suffered a concussion in their loss to Louisiana-Monroe, and was out in their humiliating 52-0 home loss to Alabama. He still has put out 8 touchdowns to three interceptions and has shown flashes of brilliance. This season will be frustrating for the Razorbacks after their three early losses, but they go into College Station looking to play spoiler at Texas A&M. I do not look for the Hogs to win it, but should Wilson get rolling, they could put up a big number on the Aggies defense.