Everyone knew the Birds were evaluating quarterbacks in this
year’s draft. Eagles brass visited with a enough of them. Hell, Jeffrey Lurie trekked
to West Virginia to look at Geno Smith. Then again, not many people had Matt
Barkley as one of their targets.
The Eagles gave Jacksonville one their seventh-round picks
so they could jump up three spots to snag the USC quarterback with the first
pick of the fourth round in a move I’m not sure anybody saw coming. We’ll get
into why in just a moment, but first the NFL.com scouting report:
Experienced running a pro-style
system. Makes adjustments at the line of scrimmage (including the run game) and
unloads the ball quickly when seeing a favorable matchup before the snap.
Usually accurate when he is able to set his base and stride into his throws.
Offense was designed to move the pocket to account for his height, and, while
he isn't overly athletic, he showed the mobility to throw accurately on
bootlegs and half rolls. Looks off and pump-fake safeties and communicate with
receivers pre-snap on the opposite side of the field from which he intends to
throw. Three-time team captain also possesses intangibles NFL teams desire at
the position, taking hits and bouncing back, displaying intelligence with his
multiple academic all-conference accolades, and earning a spot on the 2011
Allstate AFCA Good Works team.
Lacks ideal height for the
position. Does not have a plus arm, though it's enough to run a movement-based
NFL offense. Allows defenders into plays when he is unable to step into throws,
especially when going across the field. Inconsistent making throws against
pressure. Does have have physical tools to make throws when he's not set, but
has progressed in his ability to find space and get the ball of with awkward
release platforms. Ball comes out of his hand poorly at times, though it
usually reaches its intended target. Confident enough in his pre-snap read that
he'll stare down his initial target. Sails passes over his receivers' heads
when feeling pressure or in the three-step game. No threat to pick up large
chunks of yardage with his feet. Improved completion percentage in 2011 came
partially due to quick east-west throws to his talented wideouts. While he had
a lot of attempts, there are questions as to what degree structure of the
offense featured him or masked his physical limitations. Other than a hot
stretch over the second half of his junior season, his production has been
almost entirely tied to the strength of his surrounding cast.
Obviously Barkley doesn’t fit the pre-conceived notions that
many held for quarterbacks in Chip Kelly’s offense. Let’s examine that, and
what Barkley’s presence on the roster means for the future of the position.
1. So much for the
requirement that a quarterback be mobile in a Chip Kelly offense. Fans and
analysts that have been writing off Nick Foles in Philly since Chip’s arrival received
a wake-up call on Saturday afternoon when the team tagged Barkley.
It means Kelly is not tethered to an exact replica of the system
he ran at Oregon – not that it should come as some big surprise. It seemed more
than a little insane to pick up a college offense and drop it in the NFL.
More importantly, it renders these attempts to label Chip
before he’s ever coached a game at this level as frivolous. He wants the best
players on the field, and will coach to the strengths of the personnel he has –
which is what the Eagles have been saying all along.
2. Let’s not get
ahead of ourselves with calling Barkley the quarterback of the future, either.
He’s a fourth-round pick. Teams don’t often draft a quarterback on day 3 with
the idea that player is going to be the face of the franchise.
Obviously there is something the Eagles like about Barkley.
There is plenty to like about him. At
one point Barkley was viewed as one of the top prospects in college football.
He’s USC’s all-time leading passer. He is accurate and has a quick release.
Maybe they believe Barkley can eventually take the reins –
Chip told reporters he was rated as one of their top 50 players in this draft –
but the Eagles are not simply going to hand them over. Top 50 or not,
fourth-round pick says a lot more at this point than anything else. Try to take
it in stride.
3. This may be
hard to see right now, but the selection of Barkley means Foles has a
legitimate shot to be the starting quarterback – this year and beyond.
Again, organizations generally don’t use fourth rounders on
quarterbacks they expect to start immediately (or ever necessarily). That goes
for most positions for that matter. I suspect while Barkley may get a look, the
true competition this summer will still be between Foles and Michael Vick.
Assuming Foles can out-duel Vick – not a given by any means –
he would be the Eagles’ quarterback this year. And if he plays well, continues
to improve every week as he did at the end of last season – also not a given –
he could very conceivably hold off Barkley later on as well.
Again, can’t stress this enough, we’re talking about a
fourth-round pick. The Redskins used a fourth-round pick on Kirk Cousins last
year in the same draft they took Robert Griffin III number two overall. They
were choosing a backup quarterback, and they knew it. A lot of fourth-round
picks would be happy just to become backups in the NFL.
That’s not necessarily the case with Barkley, but let’s not
go overboard on what it indicates about the future under center. If Foles flops,
the Eagles could very easily be drafting another quarterback even higher next year
regardless of how much Barkley has played or whether they still like him or not.
That’s what it means to be a fourth-round pick.
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