Football season is over. The Super Bowl is in the books. National signing day has come and gone. It’s a long haul until the first college game kicks off in late August. Talking about Lane Kiffin’s shortcomings is getting old (even for me). So let’s turn our attention to Trojans entering the NFL draft.
Quarterback Matt Barkley is a pretty beloved guy in the Trojan family. A four-year starter, he famously opted to return to USC for his senior season rather than take the nearly assured millions he’d make by entering the NFL draft early.
First, let’s look at his stats:
Weight: 230 lbs.
Games Played: 47
Career Stats: 1,001-for-1,562 for 12,327 yards, 116 touchdowns and 48 interceptions
Pluses and Strengths
Matt Barkley is a stand-up, smart guy. He is rooted in his faith and has spent time on humanitarian missions in third-world countries giving time, energy and love to those who have less than he and his friends have. (via Iamsecond.com, USCTrojans.com)
He’s the kind of guy you want on your team. He’s not going to fail the Wonderlic or exhibit erratic behavior. He can grasp and run an offense like a leader. In fact, he has arguably the best leadership qualities of not just any quarterback entering the 2013 NFL draft, but of any player, period.
Consider that Barkley was recruited by Pete Carroll, played his freshman season in Carroll’s system and then stuck around for a full three years with Lane Kiffin, NCAA sanctions and the general (but temporary) downward spiral of the USC football program. This kid has character and integrity.
Great, but that only gets you so far in football.
Barkley, if he were to be compared to a current NFL QB, is most like Drew Brees. In an offense designed to play to their strengths, both Brees and Barkley shine. They are both adept at reading complex defenses and delivering pinpoint accurate throws in short and middle-distance ranges. USC plays a pro-style offense, so he is well-prepared to make the transition to reading professional level defenses.
Matt Barkley is best at passes 10 yards downfield, behind and between linebackers. He can deliver bullets in traffic in mid-ranges. His exceptional accuracy in these ranges, alongside his ability to anticipate breaks well and hit inside the strike zone, bode well for Barkley’s future NFL success since the ability for a non-mobile QB to succeed depends on his ability to deliver into tighter and tighter windows.
Barkley has a solid confidence that allows him to operate well in the pocket, even when rushed. He knows how to play the defense—acting the decoy for one play while actually delivering another.
Minuses and Weaknesses
Matt Barkley, despite his considerable tangible and intangible strengths, has three significant weaknesses: He is on the shorter side, has just average arm strength and average mobility.
At 6’2”, Barkley’s height is only really a concern if the team that drafts him won’t adjust its offense to suit him. After all, there are shorter QBs that have had success. Fran Tarkenton, Drew Brees, Joe Theismann, Michael Vick and Doug Flutie are all 6’0" or under.
Look at the New Orleans Saints.
Sean Payton built his offense around Drew Brees, making adjustments for the 6’0” quarterback,and it worked. No team can expect a 6’2” passer to run a vertical passing game with deep drops consistently.
At USC, Barkley has operated in a horizontal passing game and it has worked for him. The ideal NFL team for Matt Barkley will have him using his intelligence to throw to fast-developing routes and provide throwing lanes so he can see over taller, brawnier players.
The fact is, for all Barkley’s skills and sheer integrity, he doesn’t have a big arm. He is also a Southern California boy, having played his high school ball at Orange County’s Mater Dei High School. Outdoor games in bad weather will be a problem for him.
Barkley will likely end up going to a team in desperate need of a quarterback, which, in my opinion, is not the best fit for him. I’d rather see him fall a bit and end up in an Aaron Rodgers-type situation, rather than a savior position where he has to step in immediately without time for both the team and Barkley himself to develop.