For any NFL Draft prospect, pro day is the final opportunity to make a good impression on pro scouts. But for Matt Barkley, USC's graduating four-year starting quarterback, Wednesday's pro day will prove to be the most crucial element in determining where he ends up in this year's draft.
It's safe to say Barkley's draft stock has taken a significant hit in the past year and a half. After a 2011 season in which he threw for 39 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, posting a 161.2 QB rating, he was a top-tier prospect. But after electing to return to the Trojans for his senior year, five losses and a shoulder injury suffered against rival UCLA cast his draft stock in doubt.
Barkley's shoulder kept him out of action in the college football postseason and prevented him from throwing in the NFL Scouting Combine, meaning his pro day will be the highest-profile instance for scouts to take a final look at his skills. He'll throw to receiver Robert Woods, who caught 76 passes for 846 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, including a four-touchdown game against Colorado.
The absolute best-case scenario for Barkley will be if he can address all of the doubts levied against him. Not only does he have to show that the shoulder is healthy, but he also has to prove he has the arm strength to throw deep in the NFL. Completing fewer than 90 percent of his scripted passes is not an option, and the more he can put down the field, the better.
But perhaps Barkley can find stability in executing plays that highlight his skills.
For one, he can throw on the run, so expect plenty of that. Second, after working out with 2000 Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, he should show that he can put throws in all the right places—establishing himself as an accurate quarterback with the right intangibles to play in the pros.
Either way, a good pro day can do plenty to stabilize Barkley's draft stock. Once a top-five prospect in the entire draft class, he's no longer even the top quarterback available, according to Sports Illustrated; he's also been left off of their latest top 40 list of prospects. Showing that he can make difficult throws, perhaps even more than deep throws, can go a long way towards changing that.
If Barkley hits his marks on Wednesday, he might be back on that big board—and with that, back in the first round.
For more from Christopher Leone, follow @christopherlion on Twitter.