Many assumed Kelly needed a running quarterback to direct his high-powered offense.
After all, Kelly worked out a new deal to bring back veteran quarterback Michael Vick. He immediately signed his former college quarterback, Dennis Dixon. And his 2012 quarterback at Oregon was Marcus Mariota, who ran the ball 106 times for 752 yards and five scores, including an 86-yard touchdown run.
That’s why the Matt Barkley pick was so surprising.
Kelly traded up several spots on Day 3 of the draft to grab Barkley with his fourth-round pick. And it may just be the steal of the draft.
Barkley has all the tools to be Kelly’s quarterback of the future. Had Barkley declared for the draft following his junior season, he likely would have been a top-10 overall pick. Barkley was supposed to be a first-round selection this year until the weeks leading up to the draft when he slipped, eventually falling to pick No. 98.
There were concerns about Barkley’s arm strength. His senior season ended prematurely due to a shoulder injury. He lost five games and threw a career-worst 15 interceptions. All contributed to his drop; Barkley was just the fourth quarterback off the board.
That could all be a blessing.
Barkley inherits a team filled with talent on the offensive side of the ball.
DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are playmaking wide receivers. Brent Celek and Zach Ertz are a fearsome one-two tight end punch, while fullback/tight end James Casey will be a weapon lining up at multiple spots. Factor in an offensive line that returns three starters from injuries, and Barkley is in a position to succeed.
Some, like Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer, believe Barkley could be this year’s Russell Wilson. After all, the quarterback position in Philadelphia is up for grabs, and Barkley is the only quarterback on the roster hand-picked by Kelly (Dixon won’t likely make the team).
It’s not unreasonable at all to expect that Barkley can be the starter for the team’s opener against the Washington Redskins. Barkley said he expects to contend for the starting spot during the preseason, according to NJ.com.
Barkley was a four-year starter in high school and college, tossing 116 touchdown passes in a stellar career at USC. He showed the intelligence to handle a hurry-up offense predicated on quick decision-making.
Barkley is no threat to run the ball, but his array of weapons in Philadelphia as well as his savvy football IQ should make him a good fit for the quarterback position. Barkley even directed a no-huddle offense while at USC, which is essential for leading Kelly’s offense.
It would be surprising to see the rookie Barkley beat out Michael Vick for the starting quarterback job in 2013. Vick was brought back on a one-year deal, one that should suggest he’s the starter if he’s still on the roster after his $3.5 million bonus in August.
That’s no big deal for Barkley.
Sitting and learning the offense for a year should be good for the former USC product.
Even if Barkley is buried on the depth chart behind Nick Foles, he will gain valuable experience as an observant of Kelly’s offense. Kelly said he had Barkley rated among his top 50 prospects in the draft class.
Considering Vick has played all 16 games just once in his career, there’s a good chance either Foles or Barkley will see substantial time in 2013 as a starter. Bet on Barkley beating out Foles, and bet on Barkley becoming the team’s full-time starter by the end of the season.