By: PFC Contributor James Duignan
Recent buzz has surfaced with the Bills linked to Matt Barkley at 8. Most people will scratch their heads and point to draftniks such as Mayock or McShay saying they don’t feel that Barkley is deserving of such a high first round selection. After the Bills Draft Luncheon press conference last week, Joe Buscaglia at WGR predicted the Bills are down to Barkley and Nassib at the eighth pick, giving Barkley the edge in his most recent mock draft. Joe B predicted Spiller in 2010, one of Newton/Miller/Dareus in 2011, and either Mark Barron or Stephon Gilmore in 2012. In 2010 most would consider Joe crazy for thinking Spiller would be the pick with Lynch and Jackson at running back, especially if Jimmy Clausen was still available. In 2011 the top three was obvious, but he was accurate once again with guys like Peterson or AJ Green often mocked to Buffalo. In 2012 Mark Barron was selected prior to Buffalo’s pick so he was accurate once again on the Gilmore selection. Now with this track record, when Joe B makes a prediction, Bills fans should all dial in. Here are five reasons Matt Barkley should be the eighth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
1. Football Resume
The NFL Draft process is said to be an NFL interview, if that is the case, who has a more impressive resume than Barkley at quarterback? He started all four years in high school at Mater Dei High School(first since Todd Marinovich in 1984), which is considered to be a top football school in California where Matt Leinart and Colt Brennan also played. Outside of Barkley, the head coach from Mater Dei has never let a quarterback call his own plays in twenty years at the school. Barkley decided to enroll a semester early at USC so he would be eligible for spring practices. At USC, Barkley came in and became the first true freshman quarterback to ever start on opening day for the Trojans, beating out highly touted Mitch Mustain and Aaron Corp. He was named team captain in 2010 (the first sophomore in USC history to be named captain), 2011, and 2012, and was 34-13 as a starter. When looking at his football pedigree it is easy to see why he is considered one of the best prospects in this draft class. While many may point to Barkley “regressing” in his senior season, could he have really improved from being the #1 prospect? While guys like Ryan Nassib are credited for winning on poor teams that are expected to lose, Barkley is constantly held responsible for any loss on a team that is supposed to win. Is it safe to say that USC wasn’t the mighty team we all thought they would be regardless of the play at quarterback?
If Barkley has one attribute that no other QB can come close to in this draft it’s his intangibles. Listen to an interview by Matt Barkley. Here is one for you guys who haven’t heard any yet: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000145329/article/matt-barkley-put-on-the-spot-by-steve-mariucci. Listen to the way Barkley carries himself. Now think of Nix, Whaley, and the rest of the Bills scouts in a hotel room at the combine listening to him selling himself, and how they feel coming from Ryan Fitzpatrick over the past few years. He came to a team that was one of the best programs in the country, and then oversaw his head coach bail for the NFL when the scandals at USC came to light. A coaching change to Lane Kiffin and two years of being ineligible for bowls still allowed Barkley to be considered the #1 prospect for the NFL heading into his 2012 season, despite not having nearly the same elite recruiting classes of Trojans in years past. Say what you will about his decision to stay in college for another year, but he wanted to win a championship with his team that has been ineligible for two years, that shows me determination, not a guy wanting to party for another year in college while procrastinating going to the NFL. According to the talking heads around the NFL he is considered a very clean prospect off the field with elite football knowledge and absolutely no baggage. Since this is considered a “down” year for quarterbacks, I would think the hardest working guy with the best intangibles would be considered the most likely of the bunch to succeed.
3. Buffalo’s History at QB
Name the last quarterback the Bills picked with their first pick in a draft? JP Losman? Nope, Lee Evans was taken earlier in the first. Jim Kelly? Wrong again, a tight end from Notre Dame nobody remembers was taken two picks before him. The Bills have NEVER drafted a quarterback with their first pick. While it worked with Kelly (although most will give his time in the USFL credit), it has not worked since. We have seen the Bills trade for a pro-bowl caliber quarterback (Bledsoe), and an up-and-coming backup (Johnson), trade back up for a quarterback in the first (JP), use a mid-round pick on a guy to groom (Edwards), tried to steal a former high pick from a practice squad (Brohm), turn a promising backup into a starter (Fitz), sign a former top pick (Young) or aging veteran (Holcombe), and even look to the CFL (Flutie) for free agents. The Bills have had mixed results with their signal callers, but none have turned Buffalo into a serious contender for the Super Bowl, or even a real playoff threat since Kelly. With this being considered, history suggests the odds of finding a quarterback at 41 or beyond is not good. For every Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson, there are three or four Pat White’s or Chad Henne’s (sorry Dolphins). And we still don’t know if those two are a one-year fluke due to the rise of the read option gimmick in the NFL, or an anomaly like Drew Brees.
3. West-Coast Offense
At USC, Barkley ran a West-Coast offense very similar to what the Bills are trying to implement with Marrone and Nate Hackett this season. While Barkley may not have the elite arm of Tyler Bray or Mike Glennon, he possesses the perfect tools to be successful in this style of offense. Barkley will rely on his ability to go through his progressions quickly on pass plays that will likely be based off of the threat at running back by Spiller. His accuracy, precision, and elite anticipation will make him extremely effective in this type of offense. Also, Barkley throws a very tight spiral, which will be an asset in the December games at the Ralph in the sub 20-degree, windy conditions. His familiarity with the west coast system will be perfect for a transition to Marrone’s offense in Buffalo, as well as play off of Spiller in the running game to allow him to develop before he is leaned on to be the threat of the offense. While many will point out he does not possess the elite arm to be a franchise quarterback, the league is not run by the Cutler’s or Stafford’s of the world. Jamarcus Russell had the best arm talent most scouts have ever seen and he was an epic bust, proving this should not be the standard of rating quarterbacks. Brees, Manning, and Brady were all said to have elite accuracy, but all three were knocked through the draft process due to arm strength. While Barkley may not be as effective in a spread/vertical offense, the Bills would build the WCO around his strengths.
4. “Parcells Rules” QB Criteria
Bill Parcells is known for developing his quarterback criteria to try to avoid busts at the position. According to Sean Pendergast from the Houston Press; there were six first or second year signal callers who led their team to the post season in 2012. Out of the six (Kaepernick, Wilson, Luck, Griffin III, Dalton, Ponder) a whopping FIVE had passed Parcells’ test. What about the quarterbacks drafted in the first or second round over the past two years who didn’t lead a team to the playoffs this season? Each of Newton, Locker, Gabbert, Tannehill, Weeden, and Osweiler all failed the test. This proves his rules are still proving to be significant even in todays NFL. The criteria is simple:
a) The quarterback must be a senior. . .because you need time and maturity to develop into a good professional quarterback
b) He must be a graduate. . .because you want somebody that takes their responsibilities seriously.
c) He must be a three-year starter. . .because you want to make sure his success wasn’t a fluke and to know that he has been “the guy” for a significant period of time.
d) He must have 23 wins. . .because big numbers don’t mean a whole lot if you don’t win.
Barkley graduated a semester early, started all four years after staying for his senior year, had a 64.1% completion rate, and won 34 games. Parcells would be drooling. The only other quarterbacks in the 2013 draft class that passed the test are Landry Jones and Geno Smith.
While Barkley may not be considered a once in a lifetime prospect like Luck or Griffin III a year ago, most would have thought the 49ers or Seahawks were crazy if they selected Kaepernick or Wilson in the top 10. In retrospect, they both would have easily been picked in the top 5 based on their play this season. Most will suggest that teams could find the most “value” trading back into the later portions of the first round before they select a quarterback, but how smart is it to risk another team taking your guy? How much “value” does a player have when your team doesn’t have a quarterback? Marcell Dareus and Patrick Peterson both look like pro-bowl caliber players, but neither the Bills nor Cardinals have improved in the wins column with poor quarterback play. While people thought Cam Newton was an enormous reach for the Panthers, most thought Gabbert was a steal for the Jaguars at 10, this suggests that there is a reason the drafniks who all the fans listen to are working for ESPN or the NFLN and not in an NFL front office. The Bills, or any other quarterback needy team, need to realize that the NFL has changed into a quarterback driven league, and without a sufficient signal caller you really have no chance to be a Super Bowl threat. So is Matt Barkley worth the pick at 8? I can’t see how he isn’t when half of the league is still looking for their franchise guy.