For a guy that was looking like the Heisman front-runner and the possible number one overall pick heading into the 2012 season, Matt Barkley is sure acting like someone who has a lot to hide by not throwing at the NFL Combine. Regardless of what angle Barkley is trying to play by choosing not to throw at the combine and waiting for his pro day at USC, he needs to put it aside, start acting like a professional, and throw at the combine.
Considering where Barkley once stood and how far he’s already fallen, he doesn’t have all that much to lose by throwing at the combine in front of NFL executives. By returning to USC for his senior season and struggling the way he did, despite having two elite wide receivers to throw to and help him out, Barkley lost out on the chance to be a top-10 pick, and may have actually knocked himself out of the first round altogether. The extra year just gave NFL scouts more time and more film to find flaws in Barkley’s game, which they did, so it’s doubtful that Barkley could expose himself by throwing at the combine any more than he did this past season. Moreover, considering the need at quarterback in the NFL and how weak this year’s class of quarterbacks coming out of college is, it’s hard to imagine Barkley falling any further than the early part of the second round, so he really has more to gain than to lose by throwing at the combine.
If Barkley is choosing not to throw at the combine because of the shoulder injury he suffered in November, then he’s got bigger problems to attend to than the NFL combine. If Barkley’s shoulder isn’t healthy enough to make a few throws in a controlled environment, then a red flag should go up for NFL teams looking at him, especially considering that Barkley never had great arm strength to begin with. If anything, Barkley needs to throw at the combine to prove to teams that he’s recovered and his shoulder is healthy, after he was unable to make it back in time to play in USC’s bowl game. The best place to show that he’s healthy is at the combine, where he knows all 32 teams will be present and where he’ll be able to make the best impression on them.
For a quarterback, actually throwing a football is arguably the most important part of the NFL combine. For someone in Barkley’s situation, it’s even more important. As his stock has dropped over the past year, the stock of some of the other quarterbacks available has risen. If Barkley still expects to be one of the first quarterbacks drafted, and wants to hear his name called in the first round, he needs to suck it up, throw at the combine, prove that his shoulder is healthy, and start re-asserting himself as one of the elite quarterbacks in the 2013 NFL draft.