USC quarterback Matt Barkley is the one player other than former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o who is under the microscope more in advance of April’s NFL draft. Barkley will have a lot to prove during Wednesday’s pro day and could sneak back into the first round conversation and erase the memory of an enigmatic 2012 season with a strong performance in front of a bevy of scouts.
Barkley decided to return to the Trojans for his senior season and bypassed an opportunity at being a potential top 10 pick in the 2012 draft, but after an injury-shortened season that saw the Trojans fall from being the No. 1 to start the season to a 7-6 record, his draft stock plummeted quicker than Barack Obama’s approval rating.
Critics say that Barkley is too short; he’s 6-2, two inches taller than Drew Brees. Others will maintain that he was a product of the system and his stats were inflated. Aren’t we all products of the system? Isn’t every coach trying to put their player in the best system and position to succeed? Why that is even a criticism I have the slightest idea. The last thing that Barkley gets criticism for and will have to address in his workout is his accuracy.
Arm strength and height are important for a quarterback, but if you ask scouts and coaches what they want to see the most from a quarterback outside of leadership is how accurate he is. Barkley completed 64.1 percent of his passes for his career at USC, but his ability to complete the deep out and passes down the sideline or the seam will separate him from being the next Marc Bulger and can elevate him into the conversation of being the next Brees.
After Wednesday’s workout I expect the draft stock to start its ascent again and when the first round takes place Apr. 25, I’m betting the house that Barkley goes in the first round, maybe even in the top 20. Once in the NFL he’ll have a whole new set of questions to answer, but on Wednesday he’s going to erase the doubts and silence the critics who think he isn’t an elite quarterback prospect.