For the first time since 2004, Matthew Barkley will enter a football season without a starting quarterback job. Barkley started as a freshman at Mater Dei High School in California in 2005 and went on to star for the next four years. By the end of his high school career, Barkley had become the top high school prospect in the nation for the 2009 class.
Barkley then committed to USC where he was expected to replace the recently-drafted Mark Sanchez. After a mediocre freshman season, Barkley soared into the PAC-10 record books during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Following the 2011 season, he was projected to be a top ten pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, along with the likes of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. However, Barkley elected to stay his senior season and re-enter the draft in 2013.
So now that the 2013 NFL Draft has come and gone, and Barkley has been drafted, why does he find himself as seemingly the third wheel in a fierce quarterback battle in Philadelphia instead of the face of the Indianapolis Colts or Washington Redskins? Well, to state it simply, Barkley did not have a strong senior season. Injuries and poor decision making (sound like another Eagles’ QB?) derailed his draft stock from the previous year. His completion percentage dipped from 69 percent in ’11 to 63 percent in ’12. His interception total rose from 7 to 15. Questions about Barkley’s arm strength that were tossed aside when USC was winning games were brought back up again after he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. Instead of going in the top 10 in 2012, Matt Barkley was selected with the 98th overall pick in the 4th round of the 2013 NFL Draft by, surprisingly, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Why surprisingly? With new coach Chip Kelly in town and Michael Vick re-signed to a one-year deal, the assumption was that Kelly wanted a mobile quarterback and although Kelly promised competition, it sure seemed like Vick’s job to lose with Nick Foles on the trade block. Kelly then drafted Barkley, who has neither the arm strength nor the athletic ability of Vick. It was then realized that Kelly had stayed true to his word: he did not need a mobile quarterback to run his offense. He needed a leader and someone who could make quick, sound decisions in an up-tempo offense.
Despite a rough 2012, those are traits Barkley still possesses. He forced many throws in 2012, some of which can be attributed partially to terrible offensive line play. Barkley is still an incredibly intelligent kid, and all reports from Eagles’ minicamp indicate that Barkley has picked up Kelly’s offense very well.
Eli Manning and Drew Brees don’t have the best arm strength in the league or the best mobility, but they have championship rings because they are extremely intelligent, command the game as natural leaders, and deliver timely, accurate passes.
Matt Barkley wasn’t a top recruit and a potential top ten pick for nothing. Now healthy and with a “Chip” on his shoulder, Barkley could prove to be a steal in the fourth round. Whether he pulls a Russell Wilson and steals the job this summer or sits for a year and begins his possible reign as Philadelphia’s franchise quarterback in 2014, this is certainly an interesting story that is worth tuning into. There is reason to doubt him, but there is also a lot to like about Matt Barkley. He could follow in the footsteps his USC predecessors Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez, or he could fulfill the Tom Brady and Joe Montana comparisons he drew as a high school recruit. He could also, as soon as September 9 vs. the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football, be the face and future of the Philadelphia Eagles.