USC Football: What Scouts Need to See from Matt Barkley at QB's Pro Day
The 2013 NFL draft is light on rising stars at quarterback, with no solid prospect headlining the draft like in years past. One quarterback looking to have his name called in New York is Matt Barkley, but before that happens he needs to have a strong pro day for the scouts in L.A.
All of the questions that surround his game won’t be answered in one session with scouts, but as draft draws near, Barkley can ease some concerns on March 27.
The biggest concern surrounding Barkley’s game is his physical tools.
His arm strength is considered mediocre at best, and his mobility in the pocket is far from elite. He lacks ideal height for the NFL (6’2”), with his football knowledge usually outweighing the physical concerns.
He is coming off of season-ending shoulder surgery as well (via USA Today), which kept him from throwing at the combine in Indianapolis. With strength already being a concern, shoulder issues are a major red flag.
Despite his issues, Barkley has put together a solid four years at USC and has a body of work that shows growth in his areas of weakness.
His ability to connect with throws on the run has gotten better over the past few years, and this is a look at a play from the Oregon game in 2012.
The first screenshot shows USC in the shotgun formation deep inside its own territory. Matt Barkley is set to receive the snap at the 6-yard line.
In the next clip you see Barkley (marked by a yellow circle) completing a roll-out and setting to release his pass from the 2-yard line. His target receiver (marked by a black arrow) is 15 yards downfield and halfway across the field, mid-line.
Barkley completes the throw on a rope while in stride. For a non-athletic quarterback, that is a tough throw.
For any quarterback, that is a tough throw.
There won’t be games that are won by Barkley’s ability to run with the football, but past film has shown that he is mobile enough to make plays comfortably outside of the pocket.
When the scouts roll into L.A., this has to be a skill that is put on display by Barkley. The questions of athleticism will subside with a few solid connections on roll-outs.
Arm Strength and Accuracy
Another cloud that hangs over Barkley’s game is his arm strength. He has never been challenged consistently to display a rocket arm, so it was never a concern in the USC offense.
To succeed in the NFL there is a need to have an above-average arm, or opposing defenses will break on the ball and ruin a Sunday for a young signal-caller.
Barkley has not displayed a lot of rocket-arm opportunities, but there is evidence that he has what it takes to be a steady starter for a pro team. These next screenshots show the blend of arm strength and accuracy needed to land Barkley a contract on draft day.
In this first screenshot, you notice Barkley (marked by a yellow circle) setting his feet in preparation for a downfield throw. He is standing on his 49-yard line.
The next shot shows his receiver (marked by a yellow circle) making the catch near the three yard line. The throw traveled nearly 50 yards, and was accurate enough to be caught on the outside shoulder (marked by a scarlet arrow) of the receiver.
This was a perfect toss from Barkley. It shows the ability to place the ball in the receiver’s basket downfield, and the strength to cover half of the field with a throw.
Barkley needs to put this accuracy and delivery on display often during his pro day.
The next set of screens comes from the Stanford game. Both are throws that come across the middle and through defenders.
In this shot, Barkley is set in the shotgun set to receive the snap at his 25-yard line.
The second look is a downfield shot where the USC receiver (marked by a yellow circle) is making the catch around three Stanford defenders (marked by scarlet arrows).
Notice the two defenders in pursuit of the receiver near the 40- and 45-yard lines, respectively. Both were in the passing lane, but Barkley was able to thread the needle and deliver a completion and first down.
Hear is another look at Barkley’s accurate throws in traffic.
This first shot has Barkley beginning his roll-out from the 25-yard line of USC. He drops back to around the 20-yard line to set his feet and prepare his downfield reads.
The next screenshot shows the connection to the receiver (marked by a yellow circle) and the defenders that were split by the throw (marked by scarlet arrows). The ball flight is marked by a black line to show the distance that was covered by the football.
Barkley launched that throw on a rope for 25 yards through two defenders. He may not have Joe Flacco arm strength, but these past throws show that he has enough to win a lot of ballgames at the next level.
This pro day has to be perfect for Barkley. He has to hit every throw, and his footwork and timing have to be the best since his arrival at USC.
There is no room for error remaining. The difference between being the first quarterback and fourth quarterback off of the board will be settled in just a few short days.
Matt Barkley is arguably the most knowledgeable quarterback in the upcoming draft. Take a look at this play breakdown with Steve Mariucci from NFL Today.
He has been a four-year starter in a pro-style offense, and he has the ability to breakdown opposing defense within seconds at the line of scrimmage.
Barkley has been extremely successful in audible situations in the past in both the run and passing games. The intangibles are there for Barkley to steal the conversation with scouts during his pro day.
If Barkley can get a lot of chalk talk in, he may shoot to the top of the draft boards by April.
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