Why Matt Barkley Could Replace Blaine Gabbert as Jaguars' Starting QB

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Why Matt Barkley Could Replace Blaine Gabbert as Jaguars' Starting QB
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The 2012 season wrapped up almost three weeks ago, but the NFL has definitely become a year-round experience. Team executives are busy piecing together rosters to keep up with the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, and players are also doing their part in preparation for next year.

While the Super Bowl is the pinnacle of the league’s calendar, the NFL draft isn’t too far behind in comparison—as it represents the height of the offseason schedule.

Though free agency plays an integral part in how organizations prepare year in and year out, the draft signifies the foundation of how teams are truly built. The 2013 edition is no different.

With the NFL being the premier sport, starting quarterbacks—elite or not—are often the most recognizable figures around. The Jacksonville Jaguars are one of many teams possibly searching for an upgrade at the position.

Having taken Blaine Gabbert with the 10th pick in the 2011 draft, Jacksonville was thought to have found their guy. Two disappointing seasons from the quarterback and this team is right back at square one, however.

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Gabbert was placed on IR (elbow), missing the final six games of 2012. Chad Henne replaced him for the balance of the season but was unable to provide much in the way for the Jaguars to actually reverse their losing fortunes—as they finished with a 2-14 record.

Both quarterbacks are signed through next year, with Gabbert inked through the 2014 season (via Spotrac.com).

However, Gabbert has been given a vote of confidence by Jaguars quarterback coach Frank Scelfo, who thinks the third-year signal-caller would be the top quarterback in this year’s class (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk).

“If you graded him out right now, this is his draft class. If he were coming out and the quarterback draft class the way it is, would he be the top guy taken? I think the answer is yes,” Scelfo said. “Ask the scouting departments and the general managers around the league and I think you would end up with a yes on that. Basically at his age, 23, the number-one pick in the draft with two years of experience already under his belt. That’s pretty good.”

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the Jaguars seem to be committed to Gabbert for now. With this year’s quarterback class not as highly regarded as in years past, there certainly could be some truth to Jacksonville’s immediate allegiance to the former first-rounder.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
With nothing to show from Gabbert's tenure, however, the Jaguars must start the process all over again—and soon.

Ranking no better than 21st in any of the significant offensive or defensive measures in 2012, Jacksonville will definitely be looking to upgrade its entire roster. Depending on how high they rate the quarterbacks in this year's crop, the Jaguars will more than likely use the second-overall pick on the best available player to make an immediate impact.

When the 33rd pick rolls back around to them, however, there should still be a handful of quarterbacks waiting to have their name called. Matt Barkley could be the best option here, assuming he is still available.

Barkley chose to return to USC for his senior season—a decision that seemingly hurt his draft stock, as questionable offensive line play put an uneven amount of pressure on the quarterback. He didn't respond well and was eventually knocked out of the UCLA game, never to take another college snap.

Though Barkley has chosen to not throw at the combine this weekend (via NFL.com), a more controlled environment at his pro day on March 27 could prove to be more valuable in terms of his physical performance.

In his time at USC, Barkley showed well on most of the intermediate throws and in keeping the opposing defenses honest. He lacked a consistent deep ball, however, and, at 6'2" and 230 pounds, doesn't quite have the measurables that teams covet from a franchise quarterback.

His shoulder injury is a bit of a concern right now as well, though ESPN's Adam Schefter provides a little clarity on the issue.

The hit that knocked Barkley out of the game against UCLA
The fact that it takes a certain type of guy to lead the most high-profile program in the country should shed a positive light on Barkley, however. His leadership and apparent intangibles should also stick out among this year's group.

The top quarterbacks available also include Geno Smith, Tyler Wilson, Ryan Nassib and Mike Glennon. Draft boards will be spread out on which of these guys are the best fit.

If the others are able to impress the mass of NFL executives during the premier showcase this weekend at the combine, Barkley could struggle to stand out. But once that run of quarterbacks begins come April's draft, the teams that need to fill the position will be compelled to call their guy's name.

Assuming the Jaguars fill another need in the first round, Barkley could find himself drafted to kick off the second round. How that affects Jacksonville's landscape at the position moving forward will be determined in the coming months leading up to the 2013 season.

 

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