Matt Barkley‘s stock dropped like a lead balloon on the elongated weekend of the 2013 NFL Draft for a variety of reasons. The storied USC program and the man himself both had down years in what was a trying time for the Trojans. It is well known that had Barkley come out after his junior season he would have been a top 10 selection on the heels of an excellent junior campaign. In all likelihood, he would have been slotted to be picked right after the likes of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III and before Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill. Instead Barkley did the noble and unselfish thing by staying in school another year, continuing his education, and trying to exact some unfinished business at the storied program. As we know now, things took a downward spiral for SC and for Barkley. Scouts picked apart his game, chiefly his arm strength, and questioned why he had a down year in an offense surrounded with star play makers like Marqise Lee and Robert Woods.
While it is true that Barkley may have cost himself millions by making the decision to stay in school there continue to be major success stories from players picked in later rounds including a certain future Hall of Fame field general by the name of Tom Brady. Brady’s stock plummeted in the 2000 draft after a storied career at Michigan where he set records for attempts and completions and had a monster game in the Citrus Bowl against Alabama throwing for 369 yards and 4 TDs. Despite his impressive overall record and resume as a Wolverine, scouts continued to question Brady’s supposed lack of arm strength coming out of college and wondered whether his skinny frame could hold up at the NFL level. These are things Brady made a cognizant effort to improve on with NFL strength and conditioning coaches, and as we all see now Brady has a rifle that can fit balls into tight windows and his body has held up at the next level missing significant action in only one season out of his 12 years in the league. The scouts’ questions and Bill Belichick‘s faith in Tom Brady turned the New England Patriots franchise completely around and they are now reaping the benefits.
Similarly, Barkley, who started ever since he was a true freshman at USC, had an impressive record at USC setting records for yards, touchdowns, and completions in a single game while in So Cal, even breaking a Pac-12 record of number of touchdowns thrown in a season with 39. Barkley did this in a conference that had some tough teams and defenses so he had to get up for top competition every Saturday. Despite his success at such a national powerhouse and his excellent pedigree, his stock plummeted on draft day due to similar concerns the so called “experts” had about Brady in a perceived lack of arm strength and ability to fit the ball into tight spots.
The Philadelphia Eagles and Chip Kelly took a chance on the young man at the top of the 4th round of the 2013 NFL draft believing his value was just too good to pass up as they had him rated as a top 50 player. They pulled the trigger seeing a kid that has been a winner his whole life on and off the field and a young man with top flight intangibles and leadership capabilities.
The story of Brady and Barkley really are strikingly similar given their career arcs in college and eventual falls from grace in the NFL draft. Brady has been a gym rat since his first day in the league, spending countless hours studying film and working on his craft. Barkley, by all accounts, has a similar work ethic as he is already spending 14-hour days at the Nova Care Complex being one of the first men in the building and one of the last to leave working on everything from technique to strength and conditioning as well as learning and applying his studies from the film room and translating his skills onto the practice field. Barkley seems to say and do all the right things and just gives off the vibe of a franchise signal caller. Brady did not let his low draft status affect him and turned into one of the all-time greats at the position. Will Barkley have a similar path in the NFL? Signs point to yes.