Former USC star Matt Barkley was once the top overall talent heading into the start of the 2012-13 college season, yet he wasn't selected anywhere near the top of the boards during the 2013 NFL Draft.
In fact, it took a fourth-round trade by the Philadelphia Eagles to even sign Barkley up to an NFL contract—a draft day slide that few saw coming but many could somewhat understand given his frustrations throughout the most recent season with the Trojans.
After a stellar 2011 that saw him complete 69 percent of his passes, threw just seven picks, and finished third among quarterbacks for the Heisman Trophy. The two that he was behind—Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III—both went on to lead their respective franchises to the playoffs in their first season under center, such was the caliber of quarterback that Barkley was level with in 2011.
Yet, his 2012 was not so special—completing less passes, throwing almost double the interceptions and picking up a shoulder injury that kept him out of USC's Sun Bowl game. The records would show that he was a prolific player who could compete at the highest level, no doubt, but when it came to recent form, there really wasn't a lot to get excited about for Barkley.
And so his slide in the 2013 NFL Draft began.
The Eagles might seem like a bizarre landing spot for the Trojans star, and especially now that they have former Oregon coach Chip Kelly running the show.
And at one level, it is a strange destination—but it's also one that could be very beneficial for Barkley and his NFL career. Under the guidance of Kelly, Barkley could well regain his confidence and accuracy once more—potentially able to leave his mark on the NFL in his very first season.
The reality is that Michael Vick isn't what he once was to the Eagles and to the NFL. And if last year showed anything, it showed that Philly need a genuine No. 2.
Nick Foles isn't a legitimate No. 2, and we don't even need to ask about Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne. In this squad, Barkley is the first port of call behind Vick, and it might not take long for him to get a shot at running Kelly's offense in 2013.
Kelly's offense will be a high-tempo system, and while it might not seem like Barkley has the mobility or the quick strike-capabilities to best take advantage of that system, there's no doubting he'll still thrive. The former Oregon coach has insisted that he doesn't need a mobile quarterback to run his system, meaning he could very well use Barkley in that system for great success.
Remember, this is a brilliant passer of the ball, who has chalked up some prolific numbers in college—least of which being the 62 points he hung on Oregon.
He's the Pac-12 record holder for total offense, passing yards, and touchdown passes. He's also the only player in Pac-12 history with four seasons of 2,500 yards of total offense, and Kelly is supremely confident that Barkley will find success in Philadelphia (per CSN Philly.com):
We had Matt rated in the top 50 players in the draft. We talked all along about how we were going to take value, and there was no better value than for us to open up today with than taking Matt. He’s the all-time leading passer in USC history, one of the all-time great QBs to play in that league, he was a four-year starter in high school, a four-year starter in college. He has all the intangibles you’re looking at.
I can’t speak what other people saw in him. It wasn’t like I think he had a bad year, he just ended up getting hurt in the UCLA game. I think some people evaluate him a little different, but if you go to the film and the body of work, he’s had an outstanding career.
Loved competing against him, and we’re excited to have him now.
Few coaches around the league would get this excited about their fourth-round draft pick unless it was truly something special. It seems Barkley is just that for the Philadelphia Eagles' future.
It's important to remember, however, that despite the hype and excitement, he is still a fourth-round selection. And despite the success of RG3 and Luck in 2012, Barkley probably isn't going to be the opening day starter in Philly, for this is still Vick's team and he is the premier NFL quarterback.
But if we're looking to the future, then Barkley's name is the central figure in Kelly's grand plan. He might not have the instant success that many will want, but in the long run, the former USC quarterback can become the household name he always dreamed of under Kelly.
"Just give me a shot," Barkley said after finally getting a phone call from Kelly.
"Just give me a shot, and I can’t wait to see where this leads."