Clearing Up Misconceptions About Matt Barkley's Pro Potential, Draft Stock

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Clearing Up Misconceptions About Matt Barkley's Pro Potential, Draft Stock
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

 
Turn on the TV or radio lately, and there's a good chance if someone is talking about the NFL draft, they are telling you a falsehood about who the top quarterback—and in some cases overall player—is for the 2013 NFL draft.

Because it's not Matt Barkley.

Before the 2012 college football season began, all you heard about the 2013 NFL draft class was Matt Barkley this and Matt Barkley that. It's time to set those myths to bed once and for all. America, Matt Barkley is not your No. 1 overall quarterback. 

This isn't a personal attack on someone who seems to be a very good kid and elite college quarterback, but the record needs to be set straight.

Draftniks and those who worship the annual spring draft religiously need to know that when Commissioner Roger Goodell steps to the podium to announce the first overall pick in the draft, Matt Barkley's name won't even be in consideration—no matter what ESPN or the NFL Network tell you between now and the draft.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

What is it about Barkley's game that guarantees he won't be looked at with the first overall pick? Let's break it down.

 

Arm Strength

When given time in the pocket, Barkley can deliver strikes on a dime anywhere within a 20-yard range. Hurry him—where he's asked to make plays off balance or on the move—and that range comes down to about 10 yards.

Ask Barkley to throw a timing route into a small window? Probably not a good idea.

You can see in the drive above against Stanford—a team that Barkley has never beaten, by the way—that when pressured, his arm strength isn't ideal. Is this a deal breaker in the NFL? Definitely not, but the other areas of his game must evolve for Barkley's less-than-ideal arm to not hold him back.

 

Decision-Making

The USC offense is often called an '"NFL-system," and in some ways, it is. Compared to the Oregon Ducks offense, USC does look more like a conventional NFL scheme—but one area where the Trojans have protected Barkley (and other quarterbacks) is by limiting their decision-making responsibilities.

The USC offense asks Barkley to throw a catchable ball, but largely to set up catch-and-run situations like the one shown below. Reminiscent of the late-'80s San Francisco 49ers offense, Barkley is throwing inside slants and checkdowns and letting his receivers make plays in space.

You never want to scout a box score, especially interceptions due to the nature of responsibility on any given pass, but it is telling that Barkley's interceptions have gone from seven in 2011 to 13 through 10 games of the 2012 season. Scouts and teams need to look at why his turnover numbers have jumped.

The overwhelming aspect of the USC offense is that Barkley is throwing to the open man on most downs. He's checking down to the flats or to a weak-side tight end early and often. That's not an NFL scheme.

Take the above play. This is a very common USC look. Off of play action, Barkley rolls to his right—smart play for a team with a good running back and an athletic quarterback—but note how many receivers are in the frame (one) giving Barkley an easy checkdown.

It's smart offense, but it's not NFL-level decision-making.

 

Size

You're undoubtedly going to hear a lot about Matt Barkley's height in the coming months, but the reality is it's not that big of a deal (no pun intended). 

Barkley is listed at 6'2" and 230 lbs, and while he's not Ben Roethlisberger, his listed size is nothing to complain about. If he comes in under 6'2" at the Senior Bowl or NFL Scouting Combine, then the talk will creep up about his size being a factor—but compared to two rookies starting in the NFL right now, Barkley's size isn't the issue many make it out to be.

Player Height Weight Drafted
Robert Griffin III 6'2" 223 lbs No. 2 overall (2012)
Russell Wilson 5'11" 204 lbs No. 75 overall (2012)
Matt Barkley 6'2" 230 lbs TBD


If Barkley comes in as listed, take those doubting his size and remind them that he's seven pounds heavier than Robert Griffin III.

 

Talent Level

Perhaps the most valid criticism of Barkley comes from those looking at the talent around him. This is something I've long said about the USC quarterback. Extrapolating Barkley from the USC scheme and talent to see how well he plays is key.

 

Skill Players

QB RB FB WR WR TE
Matt Barkley Silas Redd Soma Vainuku Marqise Lee Robert Woods Xavier Grimble
5 star (2009) 4 star (2010) 4 star (2010) 4 star (2011) 5 star (2010)

4 star (2010)

Offensive Line

OT OT OG OG OC
Max Tuerk Kevin Graf Marcus Martin John Martinez Khaled Holmes
4 star (2012) 4 star (2009) 3 star (2011) 4 star (2009) 4 star (2008)

Hopefully he accepts an invitation to the Senior Bowl, where scouts will have a full week of Barkley without the trusted Trojan offense backing him up.

 

Positives

It's not all bad when evaluating Matt Barkley's play and ability. He has very clean mechanics—from his drop-step to his actual delivery, and few college quarterbacks are as crisp, fluid and sharp as Barkley.

His accuracy on passes under 20 yards is spot-on—the velocity isn't great, but the accuracy definitely is. Perhaps the biggest positive for Barkley is that he's a bright, very likable guy. NFL scouts, coaches and general managers will love the kid they interview and break down film with.

These are all positives that Barkley can build on. He's been a winner at a big program, and that success alone is likely to tempt a general manager into trusting his franchise in the hands of Matt Barkley.

One important thing to remember: How high Barkley is drafted most likely won't reflect the grade he's given by those watching film.

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

 

NFL Comparison: Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams

Polished, prototypical quarterback from a high-level program? Check. Limited arm strength but off-the-charts mechanics and production? Check. Super nice-guy image and demeanor? Double check.

The Barkley-to-Bradford comparison is a best-case scenario for the USC quarterback, and also a look at what system (short, timing routes) would work best for Barkley once in the NFL. Like Bradford, Barkley will likely struggle as he first transitions to the NFL, but the talent is there to be a mid-level starting quarterback if drafted by a team that won't ask too much of his arm.

 

Projected Round: Second Round

Quarterbacks have a tendency to be over-drafted, but Barkley carries a solid Round 2 grade prior to the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. This is where he's graded; not a prediction of where he'll be drafted.

 

Overall

There is a lot to like about Matt Barkley's prospects in the NFL, but he's far from the finished, flawless prospect so many want him to be. This isn't a quarterback who would have been drafted ahead of Robert Griffin III, as some have suggested.

Instead, Barkley is an elite college football quarterback who has shortcomings in his game that will make a transition to the NFL tougher than expected. 

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