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Matt Barkley Impresses at USC’s Pro Day, Better than Geno Smith

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Former USC quarterback Matt Barkley entertained 31 of 32 NFL teams at the Trojans pro day on Wednesday and had a lot to gain after being unable to workout at the NFL combine last month. After his performance when he completed 55 of 60 passes, Barkley not only solidified himself as a first-round pick, but he should be the first quarterback taken in April’s draft.

Geno Smith has been considered the top in an otherwise lackluster class of quarterbacks this season, but Barkley only trails him in terms of straight-line speed and velocity on his passes. This is not a knock on Smith who is a very good prospect and should go in the top 10 picks, but I want to point out that Barkley is a superior quarterback and merits selection over Smith.

Barkley gets criticized for his inability to throw the deep ball, but at his pro day on Wednesday Robert Woods said that Barkley actually overthrew him on a few passes. That should put to rest the questions if  Barkley’s shoulder was healthy and if he has the necessary velocity scouts covet.

To that point former NFL quarterback and current college football analyst Brock Huard broke down Barkley’s stats on passes more than 20 yards and compared his numbers to last year’s top two quarterbacks, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Barkley competed 41%, Luck 43% and Griffin 38%. Barkley is also in the middle in regard to touchdown passes with 24 compared to Luck’s 13 and Griffin’s 33. However, he threw only two interceptions to five for both Luck and Griffin.

Pretty good company to be in for Barkley after the other two’s successful rookie campaigns. What these numbers mean is that the criticism that Barkley is not capable of being able to make all the requisite throws is unfair and inaccurate. You didn’t hear this criticism of Luck and Griffin a year ago and this statistical breakdown should cease that disparagement.

Smith gets credit for being a highly productive player in Dana Holgorson’s pass-happy system and he did put up gaudy numbers, but all Barkley did in his time at USC was shatter the Pac-12 record for touchdown passes.

Not only did he consistently throw for scores, but he had incredible success on third down and in the red zone. Huard points out that Barkley completed 61% of third down passes for 11 touchdowns and threw for a touchdown on 36% of his passes in the red zone while rarely being sacked.

Echoing that point, Barkley gets nowhere the credit for his ability to be a mobile quarterback by evading the blitz, throwing on the run, and extending plays with his feet. He can roll out on bootlegs and dodge and make defenders miss with his awareness and instincts that are far superior to Smith’s.

All these statistics are great to try and prove my point, but the reason why I would want Barkley is his leadership and intangibles he brings to a team.

Barkley has been a starting quarterback for eight consecutive years. During that time he led a high school powerhouse and one of the most prestigious college programs in the history of football while leading them through the darkest of times. His ability to lead a team when it would have been real easy to give up and transfer to another school or declare for the draft early speaks volumes about his character, perseverance and determination. That’s the type of quarterback that wins in the NFL.

He’s not likely to go to a successful team his first year and that will put Barkley in a position to do what he’s always done. He will again put his teammates on his shoulders and lead them back to prominence just like he did at USC and that’s why he should be the top quarterback in this April’s draft.

Patrick’s a college football writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter and add him to your Google network.