Matt Barkley talked a good game at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, but the quarterback from USC must put on a show at his pro day in March to avoid falling out of the first round on draft day.
ESPN Insider Cecil Lammey voiced his thoughts on Twitter on Friday after Barkley wowed the media with his charisma and poise:
Cecil Lammey @CecilLammey
Matt Barkley VERY impressive at #NFLCombine interview, will impress teams at chalkboard too2013-2-22 17:15:58
Barkley then impressed teams during the interview process over the weekend—most notably the Arizona Cardinals, via Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, early on Sunday morning:
Matt Miller @nfldraftscout
Text I received from a scout this morning: Matt Barkley will not get past the Arizona #Cardinals at No. 7 overall.2013-2-24 14:56:31
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah later confirmed this rumor:
One such rumor has the Cardinals being very interested in Barkley. I've been told this exact same piece of information from a few different sources. According to one source, the Cardinals were extremely impressed with the USC quarterback during his interview this week.
There's no doubt Barkley made the best of a bad situation.
He's still recovering from the separated shoulder he suffered in mid-November last season, and his doctors wouldn't clear him to throw at the combine (h/t Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio).
Barkley is expected to be fully recovered in time for his March 27 pro day, and he'll need to perform at his best or suffer a significant slide down draft boards.
The biggest reason? Scouts aren't sold on Barkley's arm.
He addressed these concerns during his media interviews, via NFL.com's Kareem Copeland, saying, "Watch the tape. You can watch the tape where I made throws in tight windows. I can make every NFL throw that you could need."
Watching him the past few years, it's clear that he can make all the throws on the route tree when he has his feet set. But when he's flushed out of the pocket or is forced to throw off balance, he loses significant zip on his passes and isn't nearly as accurate.
On top of that, Barkley isn't an athletic, mobile quarterback, which puts an onus on arm talent more so than for quarterbacks who have elite speed and quickness.
Barkley struggled with inconsistent mechanics in his senior year, too. He lost 5.5 percent off his completion percentage and threw more than double the amount of interceptions in 2012 than he did in 2011 (15 to seven).
The quarterback from USC needs to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that his arm is strong enough to play in the NFL when his pro day commences next month. He's set himself up to be drafted early on Day 1, but if he struggles with arm strength or accuracy on March 27, Barkley's draft stock will take a significant hit.
For now, it looks like Geno Smith and Barkley could be taken early in Round 1. That said, should Barkley struggle at his pro day, he could slide out of the first round altogether.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78