Eagles trade up to take QB Matt Barkley with 98th pick

Eagles trade up to take QB Matt Barkley with 98th pick

April 27, 2013, 12:15 pm
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I can’t wait to prove myself and show that I do have a strong arm. ... Just give me a shot.
—Matt Barkley

If he had been the 10th pick in last year’s draft, which is right about where Matt Barkley was projected, he would have been guaranteed about $12.08 million.

As the first pick in the fourth round, he’ll get about $495,000 guaranteed.

So the decision to return to USC for his senior year may have cost Barkley more than $11 million.

Barkley just shrugs it off.

“I've stayed positive this whole time,” he said Saturday. “I haven't looked back. All it takes is one team. [I'm] blessed that the Eagles believe in me and are willing to give me a chance. I'm looking forward from here on out.

“No matter where you end up, it’s just the beginning of the next chapter of your life. It’s the same with me. I’m just looking ahead.”

The Eagles traded up three picks from 101 overall to 98 – past Andy Reid and the Chiefs, who had targeted Barkley – and selected the USC quarterback with the first pick in the fourth round of the draft Saturday.

Barkley joins a crowded quarterback stable that also includes Michael Vick, the starter for most of the past three years, and Nick Foles, the starter the second half of last year, along with Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne.

General manager Howie Roseman and Kelly didn’t go into the draft thinking quarterback, but they felt Barkley was too good to pass up.

“We had Matt rated in the top 50 players in the draft,” Kelly said. “We talked all along about how we were going to take value, and there was no better value than for us to open up today with than taking Matt.

“He’s the all-time leading passer in USC history, one of the all-time great QBs to play in that league, he was a four-year starter in high school, a four-year starter in college. He has all the intangibles you’re looking at.”

But he’s also coming off a disappointing season.

Barkley was brilliant in 2011, with 39 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He completed 69 percent of his passes and threw for 3,528 yards and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy balloting, third among quarterbacks after Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.

He was that good.

But he returned to USC for his senior year, and although he wasn’t terrible, he wasn’t nearly as good as in 2012.

Completion percentage dropped to 63.6 percent. He still had 36 touchdowns, but his interception total more than doubled to 15. He hurt his shoulder in a game against UCLA and missed USC’s Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech.

The NFL noticed. He was bypassed in the first round. In the second round. In the third round.

Why?

"I'm not too sure,” Barkley said. “It wasn't my decision to make that call. I'm just excited to be an Eagle.”

Forget questions about his arm strength, forget questions about his health, forget questions about his decline in production.

The Eagles wanted Barkley.

“I can’t speak what other people saw in him,” Kelly said. “It wasn’t like I think he had a bad year, he just ended up getting hurt in the UCLA game.

“I think some people evaluate him a little different, but if you go to the film and the body of work, he’s had an outstanding career.”

Barkley set 20 USC passing records and 10 Pac-12 passing marks during his career with the Trojans.

He’s the Pac-12 record holder for total offense (12,214 yards, 23rd-most in NCAA history), passing yards (12,327, 19th-most in NCAA history) and touchdown passes (116, seventh-most in NCAA history).

He’s the only player in Pac-12 history with four seasons of 2,500 yards of total offense.

And he won. Barkley was 34-13 as a starting quarterback in college and threw at least one touchdown in 42 of those 47 games.

“The first time I saw Matt Barkley, he was a true freshman, and he came into Autzen Stadium [in Eugene], which is one of the toughest places to play in the world, and it didn’t phase him a bit,” Kelly said.
 
“Matt Barkley was never a freshman. There was just a poise about him. There was a calm about him. Those intangible qualities that you really look for.

“He’s a competitor. He’s been in big games all through high school, all through college, he’s handled everything the right way.

“Just talking to him on the phone when we drafted him. A lot of people, you can say what’s their attitude going to be like? He was like, ‘It’s a dream come true.’ Loved competing against him, and we’re real excited to have him now.”

Kelly said Barkley’s performances in his four games against Oregon were a big part of his evaluation of the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder.

Barkley threw for 1,258 yards – 315 per game – with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions in four games against the Ducks, putting up an average of 35 points per game. Last year, he passed for 484 yards and five TDs in that 62-51 game.

“It was a shootout,” Kelly said. “We were scoring a lot of points, but Matt didn’t play defense.

“It was kind of like an Arena League game. It was Philadelphia Soul vs. the Orlando Predators. It was just a back-and-forth. We got up, and they answered and we answered back and then it got within three and then we went down and scored, and they would go back down the field and score.

“I’ve seen his skill set up close and personal four times, and he’s answered the ball every time. … He was great when he was a true freshman at our place. He played really good when we were down at the Coliseum two years ago. He played great this year.”

Barkley said he got a few prank calls Friday night from people telling him he’d been drafted.

When the call came soon after noon Saturday, it was the real thing.

“It was good to hear a man’s voice who said, ‘Do you want to be an Eagle?’ he said.

“It was comforting and it was a sigh of relief and a new beginning. There are a lot of emotions, but excitement is probably at the top of the list.

“I can’t wait to prove myself and show that I do have a strong arm, and I am capable of playing in this league and playing strong. Just give me a shot, and I can’t wait to see where this leads.”