This year, Barkley will be a Junior and it may be his last year playing for the Trojans before he takes his talents to the NFL. I have watched every game of Barkley since he became a Trojan and I am confident that he will be a top 5 pick whenever he decides to come out.
These were the words NFLMocks used to describe Matt Barkley towards the end of his junior year at USC. The top 5 pick sentiment was something that was shared by many NFL GM’s and scouts back in these days. And Barkley did turn out to be a top 5 pick….of the fourth round.
The disappointed QB’s free fall finally ended on the third day of the 2013 NFL Draft, when the Philadelphia Eagles took him with the first pick of the fourth round. And while plenty of great quarterbacks have been drafted at this point or later, they certainly didn’t have the pedigree of Matt Barkley.
While quarterbacking Santa Ana Mater Dei High School, Barkley gained considerable attention for winning the Gatorade National Player of the Year award in his junior season. As the nation’s number one QB prospect, he would go on to become the first true freshman in USC history to start.
The hype rapidly built long before Barkley even threw an official pass at USC. “I’m going on record now to say … three years Matt Barkley – who will be a true freshman this year – will be the No. 1 pick in the draft. Three years from now,” said ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper.
Things got off to a mediocre start for Barkley in his freshman season as he led the Trojans to a 9-4 record, while throwing for 2,735 yards, 15 TD’s and 14 INT’s. His sophomore year was better statistically as the 6’2″ signal caller tallied 2,791 yards, 26 TD’s and 12 INT’s; however, USC limped to an 8-5 record.
But Barkley’s junior year is when he really exploded after throwing for 3,528 yards, 39 TD’s, just 6 INT’s, and led USC to a 10-2 record. Based on all of this, it’s no wonder why he was the Hesiman Trophy favorite in his senior year. And Barkley’s decision to return was particularly shocking when you consider that he was a projected top 10 pick in the 2012 Draft.
Perhaps the Newport Beach, California native should’ve left because the 2012 season was a disaster for USC, which started as the number one-ranked team in preseason polls. This ranking quickly vanished as they lost to the Stanford Cardinals to open the Pac-10 season. After winning their next four games, the Trojans dropped five out of their last six contests to finish at a dismal 7-6 – quite possibly the worst that a top-ranked preseason team has ever done.
Barkley put up solid numbers with 3,287 yards, 36 TD’s and 15 INT’s during this campaign. However, his 2013 NFL Draft stock plummeted for a variety of reasons and cost him somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 – $15 million.
So what happened between the end of 2011 and 2012? First off, scouts found a lot more flaws in Barkley’s game after he led USC to a 7-6 season – namely average arm strength and dancing feet in the pocket.
He also suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out of the Sun Bowl and prevented him from throwing at the Combine in Indianapolis. This is about the worst thing that could’ve happened to Barkley after USC coach Lane Kiffin convinced him to stay. And when he did work out for scouts at USC’s pro day, his performance was less than inspiring.
Finally, Barkley is now a year older with another season of wear and tear on him. And when an injury causes more tear, this is never something that will improve your draft status.
If there’s any silver lining to this story, it’s that Barkley is taking the draft slide pretty well. He said, “I’m just glad I know where my home is and I can’t wait to hit the playbook.” Barkley also stated, “I stayed positive this whole time, and haven’t looked back. I’m blessed that the Eagles believe in me and are willing to give me a chance. And I’m looking forward from here on out. And no matter where you end, it’s just the beginning of the next chapter, next story of your life.”
The next chapter will see Matt Barkley trying to distinguish himself in a muddled, five-quarterback situation in Philadelphia. Michael Vick is the frontrunner so far; but he certainly isn’t a lock to start after a dismal, injury-plagued 2012 and a new coach in Chip Kelly.
Nick Foles should also get a crack at the starting job after throwing for 1,699 yards, 6 TD’s and 5 INT’s while filling in for Vick. Dennis Dixon is another intriguing candidate here since he quarterbacked Kelly’s Oregon team in 2007 and served as a backup on the Ravens’ 2012 NFL championship team.
It’s difficult to say where Barkley fits into this situation. But no matter if he ends up as the starter or taking practice squad reps, he’ll be making far less money than if he’d came out last year.
The Californian is probably going to sign something in the range of a four-year contract worth $2.5 million with a $500,000 signup bonus. However, this is a far cry from the $15 million or so he would’ve received as a top 10 pick. That said, Barkley will definitely serve as a cautionary tale to top NFL prospects for years to come.