What I like-There isn’t a more polarizing prospect in this draft than Barkley. There are some things that stand out in his game that an NFL franchise can work with. Barkley is a very smart quarterback, who makes very good pre-snap reads, goes through his progressions quickly, and has shown he can run a pro style offense. Barkely’s footwork and mechanics are very good. He has great set up in his drops, keeps the football up near his ear, which allows him to make quick throws and rapid adjustments when under pressure. He does a nice job with his play fakes and works well on roll out and bootlegs.
Barkley stands out from some of the other 2nd tier quarterbacks in this draft in his ability to deal with pressure and make throws. He has a solid pocket presence and isn’t opposed to standing in and taking a hit to make a throw. Part of that comes from the fact he’s a very solidly built player. Barkley has adequate size; a solid 6-2 227lbs, and in a league where so many throws are made in lanes and on the perimeter of field, concerns about his height are minimized.
Barkley is a very accurate passer in the short and intermediate routes. The USC offense is all about short throws and long runs, and Barkley does a nice job leading his receivers and delivering the football on time.
What I don’t like-Barkley has some physical limitations. I just am not sure if his lack of arm strength is something he can improve enough to be a franchise starter. Elite velocity, particularly in those intermediate types of routes allows a quarterback to throw a receiver open. Barkley throws to open receivers, but you don’t see a lot of cases where he threw a receiver open. In the NFL, the best quarterbacks can do that. They can ratchet it up and take a receiver that is covered and put it where it opens them up for the catch.
The deep pass has become such a part of the NFL game I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Barkley’s deep arm strength. In the games I watched him play, as long as he had a clean pocket and no pressure he was able to put nice air under the ball, but was not able to lead receivers on deep throws. Deep throws to a wide open receiver, and they had to either slow up, stop or come back for the ball. When Barkley had pressure things were worse. The ball came out of his hand a little strange at times and didn’t have good trajectory. It appears to me that if he can develop that throw, and maybe working up into the pocket to make that throw, he’ll throw a much more catchable ball.
What it all means-Barkley’s draft stock is all over the map. I have seen him everywhere from a likely top 10 pick to a 4th round selection. The truth is how good Barkley is going to be in the NFL will depend on two key factors. First is which team drafts him. Barkley is not plug and play guy. The team that drafts him will need to have an offense in place that allows him to minimize risk, stick to short and intermediate throws, primarily in between the hash marks and not force him outside of what he can do physically. The other is his strength. I’m not sure with his footwork and mechanics there’s a lot of room for him to get stronger.
I am lukewarm on Barkley. Whether it’s a fair criticism of him or not remains to be seen. What he’s good at are skills like footwork, mechanics, and running the offense. But it almost seemed the Trojans offense was built to minimize his shortcomings, which makes perfect sense. Just not sure if the NFL has the luxury of doing that for him. Obviously a west coast type of offense would fit Barkley, but even at that there are throws I’m just not sure he can make. If I had to make a bet, I would say Barkley ends up being drafted at some point in the first round. Personally, I put Barkley somewhere closer to a late 2nd through mid 3rd round player.