In recent memory Southern California has had something of an honorary quarterback producing pedigree, though for the life of me I can’t figure out why. Todd Marinovich, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, John David Booty, Aaron Corp, Mitch Mustain, and Matt Cassel haven’t exactly lit up the NFL.
Matt Barkley, the latest four year starter and Trojan product has garnered plenty of hype from the media and fans. During the last two off-seasons he was speculated as a first round, if not top, pick by many–though my own studies on him haven’t elicited the same reaction in me.
Size: Barkley will measure in the high range of 6’1″to low 6’2″ when the combine rolls around. Not ideal height for an NFL quarterback. Recent successes of Drew Brees and rookie Russell Wilson have some more willing to forgive his height deficiencies, but Barkley lacks the athleticism and skill sets of both Wilson and Brees. Both of whom are succeeding in offenses designed to boot the QB to the edge to take advantage of their athleticism.
Arm Strength: This is another area where I find Barkley’s skill set lacking. When required to drive the ball across the field (for instance on the deep out) the ball hangs on him. He doesn’t have the ability to muscle it in at the next level, and that’s really a deal breaker for me. He has average velocity in the mid range game, but struggles vertically. In the NFL, defensive backs break on the ball much more quickly, and many of the passes Barkley throws in college would be picked off at the NFL level. Barkley has also benefited from throwing to standout receivers like Woods and Lee.
Accuracy: Barkley does extremely well in the short and intermediate game, mostly placing the ball where only his intended receiver has a chance to make a play on it. He uses appropriate velocity and touch, and attempts to hit his receiver in stride, allowing for greater yards after the catch. For the most part he spins a clean catchable football, with a tight rotation, though it will flutter on him the further he has to throw it. The deep ball consistently wobbled on him.
Mechanics: Barkley exhibits natural bend at the knees and balance with his footwork in the pocket, is almost always in an effective throwing position. He commands an impressive feel in the pocket, subtly moves away from pressure, keeps eye level down the field. He has a decent release, and gets the ball out fairly quickly once the motion has begun, but I’ve noticed he’ll hang on to the ball a tad long due to the superior athleticism of his offensive line often giving him time he wouldn’t otherwise have.
Athleticism: Not a highly athletic quarterback, Barkley does have an impressive feel for the pocket, however. He’s not an improvisational guy, and is not going to buy you time or yardage with his legs once the play breaks down.
Pre/Post snap Reads: Barkley goes through his progressions very well, and can work his way quickly across the field and back to his check down, though in my opinion I often found him attempting to be “too safe” with the football, checking down when he could have taken a chance. He displays natural timing and knows when the football needs to come out and rarely is late, even when throwing to secondary and tertiary targets. Very safe with the football under pressure, preferring to throw to the check down when pressured.
Pocket Poise: Barkley looks very comfortable in the pocket. He has a natural slide step he uses to avoid pressure. He is something of a rhythm/timing passer, and will get flustered if you take him out of rhythm early.
Intangibles: Four year starter at a premier football university. Has been in the spotlight, and seems to know how to handle the pressures of it. He is a high football IQ guy, definitely has “it” from the neck up.
Character: No known character issues at this time.
Overall: Barkley rides a lot of hype from the media, and obviously for being the starter at USC, I just don’t see a first round/franchise caliber quarterback here, though. His tools are middling, and he lacks the “plus athleticism” to overcome that. When I look at Barkley I’m reminded a lot of Trent Dilfer (in the way he played the game), or Christian Ponder without the athleticism….a guy with a wealth of football knowledge, who has/had a middle of the road skill set, and will need a good team around him to be successful. I wouldn’t pin my Super Bowl hopes to him, though.
All in all, I wouldn’t touch Barkley in the first round. He’s not a franchise caliber quarterback, he’s a journeyman backup type, and I just can’t justify spending anything very high on him. Someone will reach for him earlier than warranted though, most likely.