As Williamson noted, general manager Reggie McKenzie was in attendance at USC’s pro day on March 27, presumably to get a closer look at none other than the Trojans’ top-shelf quarterback in his first throwing session of the offseason for NFL personnel.
Barkley injured his throwing shoulder November 17 in the team’s regular-season game against rival UCLA, a game the Trojans went on to lose 38-28. The 22-year-old would go on to miss USC’s final regular-season game and his final collegiate contest in the Hyundai Sun Bowl December 31.
The shoulder separation Barkley suffered in that November contest kept him from attending the Under Armour Senior Bowl in January and limited his throwing ability until March when he would first throw for NFL team.
NFL.com’s Gil Brandt broke down Barkley’s performance at USC’s pro day—a performance Brandt believed would be a huge boost for the signal-caller. Brandt wrote:
Two things were especially encouraging to me about his pro day: He ran the 40-yard dash and he ran it faster (in 4.89 and 4.92 seconds) than I thought he might. The fact that he was willing to throw into the wind was a good sign. Folks I talked to compared his arm strength to that of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. His feet were quicker and better than people thought they would be. Barkley's a great example of somebody who was the subject of apprehension but turned things around at his pro day. Everyone was waiting for this one, and it helped him a great deal.
The Newport Beach, California native needed a good performance at his pro day. Despite a 2011-12 campaign that was expected to make Barkley a top pick in the 2012 draft, he returned to school for another season and saw mixed results.
In 11 games under center in 2012, the 22-year-old threw for 3,273 yards and 36 touchdowns, but he also threw 15 interceptions and completed 63.6 percent of his passes—both marks well short of his performance in 2011-12 (39 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 69.1 completion percentage).
Despite his decline in production last season (and concerns about a healing throwing shoulder), the Raiders could do much worse in the second round. Barkley has plenty of talent, and there’s little doubt a team picking in the second round will give him a chance to prove it.
Had Barkley declared for the NFL draft in 2012, expectations for the signal-caller would be exponentially higher. He may not have been considered a high-risk prospect at the time, but “high-reward” probably wouldn’t have described him, either.
As a second-round pick, Barkley would have an opportunity to join the NFL ranks without the crushing expectations of being an early selection. Oakland certainly has other positional needs, but the stigma attached to second-round selections pales in comparison to the expectations of Day 1 choices.
Additionally, Barkley won’t be burdened with the expectation of being an immediate starter in 2013. According to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, recently acquired quarterback Matt Flynn has already been given the nod as the favorite to win the starting role with the Raiders this season. Tafur tweeted:
That McKenzie has already given an edge to Flynn come as no surprise. Oakland’s only real options at the position are Flynn and 2011 supplemental draft pick Terrelle Pryor, and McKenzie likely wouldn’t have shelled out two future draft picks for the former without some intention of utilizing him in 2013.
And Barkley couldn’t ask for a better scenario. The Raiders haven’t exactly found much success in recent years, but they do offer the potential to fight for a starting job without the pressure of lofty expectations from the onset.
If low-risk, high-reward situations are ideal for NFL teams, Oakland would be making an intelligent decision in selecting the USC signal-caller in the second round Friday, especially if it can obtain him without trading up and surrendering more draft picks. The second round is all about identifying potential and pulling the trigger.
Comparing Career Stats of Pryor and Flynn
|Terrelle Pryor||Matt Flynn|
The last four drafts have yielded just nine Pro Bowlers who were selected in the second round. A lot of terrific talent comes off the board in that frame, but it’s increasingly more difficult to find true playmakers and potential franchise players beyond the first round.
Oakland has an opportunity to lock up a potential franchise quarterback in the second round this year, and while many feel Barkley doesn’t have the talent or potential to fill that role in the NFL, the prospective reward far outweighs the risk.
Oakland has made some questionable decisions in recent drafts, but drafting Barkley on Day 2 wouldn’t be included in that list.