USC QB Matt Barkley (Grade: 89)
Barkley faces more questions than perhaps any other prospect in the entire class. I felt he would have been the fourth-best quarterback in the 2012 draft -- behind Andrew Luck
, Robert Griffin III
and Ryan Tannehill
-- had he chosen to declare, but Barkley did have a huge year in 2011 and entered this season tied for the highest overall grade in the 2013 class.
The biggest concern, though, was his downfield accuracy and ability to drive the ball vertically, and Barkley (6-foot-1⅞, 228) did not show improvement in that area. And with the Trojans' offensive line struggling, Barkley's inability to make things happen on pressure drops was exposed.
Those kinds of drops are far more frequent in the NFL and one of the best indicators of what a quarterback will become as a pro, and his performance in that area was not good for his draft stock.
There is reason to believe Barkley can become a solid NFL starter in the right situation and with enough time to develop, but where does he fit?
He is smart, handles the blitz well and gets the ball out on time and in rhythm. That makes him a good fit in a West Coast system, but very few teams in the league currently run pure West Coast systems. Today's NFL is as much about spreading defenses vertically as much as horizontally, and arm-strength limitations will work against Barkley.
Also consider that West Coast-heavy teams like the Green Bay Packers
, Houston Texans
, Miami Dolphins
, Washington Redskins
and Cleveland Browns
have quarterbacks in place, and other QB-needy teams like the Kansas City Chiefs
, Buffalo Bills
and the New York Jets
often play in adverse weather and could have concerns about Barkley's ability to drive the ball through the elements. The Chiefs also have the No. 1 overall pick as of this writing, and Barkley does not appear to be an elite prospect worthy of that selection.
So where does he land? If Barkley falls out of the first half of the first round, he could have a hard time finding a fit in the second half of the first-round order because most teams there are set at quarterback. So does a team picking earlier in the second round trade back into the first to get him?
One interesting team to keep an eye on is the Dallas Cowboys
, who run a lot of West Coast principles and don't have a great backup (Kyle Orton
) who would preclude them from taking a player like Barkley. The Cowboys have Tony Romo
, of course, but Romo will be 33 at the beginning of next season. He still has some football left in him, but Barkley might be an interesting option as an heir apparent who can be groomed while Romo continues to chase a Super Bowl title.