Questions surrounded quarterback Matt Barkley leading up to the USC Trojans' pro day on Wednesday.
Does he have the arm strength to excel at the next level? Does he have the athleticism to be a true difference-maker? What about the fact that he was injured in three of his four seasons at USC; is he injury-prone?
Barkley skipped workouts at the combine due to his shoulder injury, which made for an even more important pro day. Leading up to the workout, Albert Breer of NFL Network was confident Barkley would impress:
Think we can save everybody the time and just say that Matt Barkley will look fantastic throwing the ball at USC's Pro Day today?— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 27, 2013
Early on, Barkley confirmed the notion that his athleticism was lacking. His first attempt in the 40-yard dash was clocked at 5.02 seconds, according to USC Athletics:
USC QB Matt Barkley runs a 5.02 in his first 40. Video... vine.co/v/bj5hK6jzA3t— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) March 27, 2013
Barkley's second attempt was clocked at 4.93 seconds:
Latest 40 times from #USCProDay: Curtis McNeal (4.62), Khaled Holmes (5.36), Jawanza Starling (4.51) and Matt Barkley (4.93).— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) March 27, 2013
By comparison, Barkley's second attempt would have ranked eighth among the 13 quarterbacks who ran the 40-yard dash at the combine. West Virginia's Geno Smith ranked first among all QBs at the combine with a time of 4.59 seconds.
On a side note, Barkley also opted out of the three-cone drill at the last minute Wednesday, according to Mario Solis of NBC in Los Angeles. The three-cone drill measures an individual's change-of-direction speed.
Of course, this doesn't change anything. It's not like teams were looking at Barkley as a guy who could run the read-option anyway.
While dual-threat quarterbacks such as Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick changed the NFL's landscape in 2012, it's not exactly a requirement to be a burner. You only need to look at someone like Tom Brady—or his combine time in 2000—to recognize that.
Realistically, Griffin III and Wilson set the bar at an unfair level last season. It's not often that rookies are going to perform at that level both running and throwing the ball.
NFL Network prefaced the most anticipated part of the day by reporting that Barkley would be making 62 scripted throws:
Matt Barkley's throwing session scheduled to begin shortly. 62 scripted throws. #uscproday— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 27, 2013
Barkley received positive reviews initially, which was expected considering he had yet to toss the pigskin deep down the field.
Bryan Fischer of Pac-12.com tweeted:
Barkley also displayed some arm strength against the wind, according to esteemed quarterback coach Steve Clarkson.
While quarterbacks with cannon arms are certainly coveted by NFL teams, it's not required to be successful. For example, signal-callers who anticipate defenses quickly have the ability to zip it past the defense without having to chuck it 60 yards down the field.
Bleacher Report's own Chris Trapasso tweeted his thoughts about Barkley:
To me, the most worrisome thing about Matt Barkley isn't his "lack" of arm strength. It's if he can be become that Tom Brady pocket-drifter.— Chris Trapasso (@ChrisTrapasso) March 27, 2013
Not everything was roses for Barkley, however.
He appeared to be alleviating concerns about his shoulder early in the session, but as he threw deep balls, his accuracy and arm strength clearly tailed off. On a few occasions, receivers had to slow down to catch the ball.
Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports tweeted:
Barkley: Everything over 20 yards is still an adventure, but clear command of timing, anticipation, arc, footwork.— SC_DougFarrar (@SC_DougFarrar) March 27, 2013
Workout confirming what we already knew. Barkley is a perfect passer for spread, probably off of vertical-passing teams' boards altogether— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) March 27, 2013
Inside USC gave the final numbers on Barkley's workout:
Matt Barkley finished 56 of 62 with two dropped passes in Pro Day workout #USC— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) March 27, 2013
Schottey grades Barkley at a similar level as he did Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in 2011:
Not a lot of separation on my grade for Barkley & what I had for Dalton. Barkley has slightly better arm. Dalton slightly better athlete.— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) March 27, 2013
Dalton, as you may remember, was selected No. 35 overall in the 2011 draft, right ahead of Kaepernick.
It's going to be interesting to see how this affects Barkley's draft stock. At this point, it's hard to see a team with a vertical-passing game selecting the USC star too early in the draft.