Major Takeaways from Matt Barkley's Pro Day
For all the talk of Matt Barkley's pro day, it ended up much ado about nothing.
The supposed media aftermath of Matt Barkley's pro day had been preconceived as if his life story was being penned by Disney's finest screenwriters. When Barkley's college career ended on Dec. 27, his pro day was set to be an event worthy of a motley teenaged hockey players or golden retriever receivers. His comeback was to be epic.
The media was set on both sides of the rhetorical battlefield. Some (like NFL Network's Charles Davis and ESPN's Skip Bayless) started loading coal into the engine of the Barkley hype-train. Others (like NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah and myself) attempted to pump the breaks on this meteoric rise before a group of oil drillers needed to go nuke the sucker.
Metaphors aside, a closer look at Barkley's pro day reveals a lot of what we already knew about him and a lot about who he may end up playing for at the next level.
Barkley Was Who We Thought He Was
While his reported 40 times have varied, most had Barkley right around 4.8-4.9 at his pro day. It's easy to write off the slow time because no one would've expected him to run the zone-read or execute any Fran Tarkenton-esque scrambles. However, had Barkley managed to run a little faster, teams may have been more comfortable moving him around (he throws decently well on the run).
Still, those bullet-points were already on Barkley's scouting report, and the shining star of any pro day is watching a top quarterback throw in a scripted passing session. Why is that? It's essentially like a teacher giving an open-note test—everyone should pass it, but it's real easy to weed out the people that don't care. Looking at you Tyler Bray!
As long as Barkley didn't forget which endzone he was throwing to or throw one of the footballs "over them mountains," his stock wasn't going anywhere.
Barkley hit his intermediate passes, just like we knew he would. He struggled, a bit, into the wind on longer throws, but not anymore than he did in college. Yet, when his mechanics were on, he was able to get the ball to his intended target. Although he doesn't possess great arm strength, he was able to hit a few bucket throws over-the-top (including one that was beautifully placed but then dropped). The ability to hit that long-arching throw is a great equalizer for arm strength concerns (see: Tom Brady).
Every NFL team was present at the USC pro day, but no team saw anything new out of Barkley that would send them scrambling back to the tape.
Some Teams Should Just Take Barkley Off Their Boards
Of course, some teams weren't at the USC pro day to watch Barkley (egads!). Some were simply there to watch Robert Woods (a borderline first-round receiver) or Khaled Holmes (a decent zone blocking center prospect) or one of the defensive prospects—T.J. McDonald (S), Nickell Robey (CB) or Wes Horton (DE/OLB).
It's east to understand that 10-15 teams in the league wouldn't have use for Barkley because they don't have use for any quarterback in the top half of this draft. Teams with solid starting quarterbacks aren't going to take Barkley in the first or second round, and Barkley probably won't last long enough to be considered as a back up.
How Successful Will Matt Barkley Be in the NFL
Other teams, however, will likely take Barkley off of their boards because they run a vertical passing system. The Oakland Raiders dearly need a quarterback and are playing chicken with Carson Palmer in order to force him to take less money. Barkley would be an improvement over Palmer, but he would be an odd fit for a system that loves to take shots down the field as much as Greg Olsen likes to.
The Arizona Cardinals, too, would really like a new quarterback and have been linked to Barkley. However if you look at the quarterbacks that Bruce Arians has succeeded with—Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck—all have been bigger bodies with bigger arms with the ability to take big chances. That isn't Matt Barkley. That isn't even close to Matt Barkley.
The pro day was proof that Barkley is who he is, so teams like the Raiders, Cardinals, Browns and Eagles shouldn't try to project him as something he's not. A team like Buffalo may be a fit for him schematically, but those passes fluttering in the wind won't do much better up in the frozen tundra.
Barkley Can Win Football Games in the NFL
While I've been pretty hard on Barkley up to this point (mostly in response to the hype surrounding him), the pro day also confirmed another aspect of Barkley's game that we saw on tape. Barkley is a pro-ready prospect who is almost pristine on passes 0-15 yards out. He can drive the ball on shorter out-routes and throws a pretty slant—both from the pocket and rolling out.
Those aforementioned bucket passes will also give coaches reason to breathe easy that he's not as polished at 15-plus yards. Think back to Matt Leinart. He wasn't as talented with intermediate passes, but he too struggled with longer throws (and like Barkley, was often bailed out by talented receivers). He never threw over the top as well as Barkley can and allowed defenses to crowd the line of scrimmage.
Put into a spread offense (think New England's spread 'em out and pass underneath style) or one of the many variants of the West Coast Offense (Kansas City, Miami, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers—all wildly different offenses with similar roots) Barkley could succeed.
Perhaps the most intriguing fit for Barkley is the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team with clear connections with the USC program through the Seattle Seahawks' head coach, Pete Carroll. However, more apropos is Gus Bradley's connection to Bill Walsh, Mike Shanahan and Brian Billick's offensive concepts and his success with similar quarterbacks like Matt Hasselbeck (in Seattle) and Adam Weber (at Minnesota).
The Jaguars need a quarterback and Barkley may be available for them at the top of the second round.
In a system that fits his strengths, Barkley should be able to come in and win football games at the NFL level. That's what we saw on tape and his pro day didn't change that opinion in the slightest.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.
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