You have rookie camp where the media can’t watch the practices and the 1st round pick is a RT, the 2nd rounder a TE, and the 3rd rounder a DE/DT tweener. So guess who gets all the attention? That’s right…the 4th round QB, Mr. Matt Barkley.
The good news is that Barkley is ready for this. He was the starting QB at Mater Dei for 4 years. That’s a huge deal in the high school football world. He then went to USC and became the first true Freshman to start his first game. Barkley started all 4 years in one of the most high profile jobs in the college football world. He might look like a young man, but he’s not. That is a veteran QB who knows how to handle the media. Seemingly, even the Philly media.
He was asked a variety of questions. Barkley handled them all well. One writer was trying to get Barkley to talk about the QB’s responsibilities in the Chip Kelly offense, hoping Barkley might share some secrets. Barkley told the guy he couldn’t get into specifics and gave a generic answer. Another writer asked if the offense looked the same as the one he saw Kelly run at Oregon, again looking for some inside info. Barkley deflected that and said the offense was a bit of this and a bit of that.
The average person might not see this as a big deal, but I think there is something to it. One of the big transitions most players go through when they come to the NFL is dealing with a bigger and more aggressive media. You are no longer a college kid who the media should give a break to. You are now a spoiled pro athlete that is fair game for intense scrutiny. Ryan Leaf was very popular at Washington State. He carried that team on his back to the Rose Bowl. He was a great college player and had some personality. He was a hero in college. Leaf got to the NFL and suddenly couldn’t win. The questions went from positive to negative and he couldn’t handle it. And that was just San Diego, not Philly, New York, or Boston.
What I saw and heard from Barkley on Friday was a player who is ready for the big time from a mental and emotional standpoint. Check out a few more quotes.
In regard to Michael Vick and Nick Foles:
“You come in as a teammate to them, not as a fan,” Barkley said. “You come in as someone who is ready to compete against them, at the same time . . . It’s going to be good competition for all of us, competing against each other, just making each other better.”
Asked about sliding in the draft:
“The fact is that I’m here, and I have a shot to play on the field this year.”
You can tell that Barkley has a chip on his shoulder, but it seems to be in a good way. He’s not bitter and angry. He’s driven. Only time will really tell, but he came across as a player who is genuinely happy to be playing for the Eagles and Chip Kelly. He seems to get that going a couple of rounds later than expected is only a big deal if he lets it be a big deal. Barkley’s career won’t be defined by when he was picked, but rather by how he plays.
Let’s talk about his slide for a minute. I’ve been thinking about this more and more. The perception feels like “Barkley was there…he was too good to pass up…take him”. That’s not the deal at all.
Howie Roseman explained after the draft that the Eagles did try to trade up into the late 3rd round to get Barkley. The Eagles had him rated as a Top 50 player. He was probably in the 41-50 range or else they would have said “we had him rated as a Top 40 player”. The Eagles felt like he would probably go in the early to mid-2nd round. They had a chance to take him at pick 67, but instead went with DL Bennie Logan. That means the Eagles clearly had a higher grade on Logan. If the grades were close, you always take the QB. I would guess Logan was rated maybe 10 spots higher. That’s kinda interesting in and of itself.
I’m sure passing on Barkley at 67 wasn’t easy, but the Eagles stayed true to the board. They saw Barkley continue to sit there for the taking. I’m sure Roseman would have loved to deal into the middle 3rd to get him, but that would have eaten up serious resources. There were too many holes to fill to make a deal like that. Once it got to be late in the 3rd round, the Eagles saw that they could afford to move up and Howie started really working the phones. The problem is that those teams all had players they wanted and weren’t moving back.
Friday’s action came to a close. Howie started talking to teams about moving up on Saturday morning. He made plans with Jacksonville and had a backup plan with KC. Howie knew he had to get in front of the Raiders if he really wanted Barkley, which he did. The Eagles traded with the Jags and Barkley became an Eagle.
Another key part of this is that the Eagles had checked Barkley out extensively. Kelly saw him up close for 4 years. Roseman scouted him in person on annual trips to USC. He was high on Barkley last year, had Matt come out. The Eagles met with Barkley at the Combine and said he had a great interview. Then they sent QB coach Bill Lazor to USC to work him out.
This doesn’t mean Barkley is a Top 10 player the Eagles got and he’s a sure-fire star. I do think it is important to note the Eagles level of interest in Matt prior to the draft. Too often when we talk about a value pick it feels like the equivalent of going to the grocery store to buy a 12-pack of PBR and seeing a pack of pork chops that are on sale cheap. You had no intention of getting them, but it was just too good a deal not to take. This is more like going to the store and wanting the chops, but thinking you simply couldn’t afford them. You then go see that a pack of chops is still there and the price fits your budget. Now you’ve got PBR and pork chops (we call that Christmas in my family).
None of this erases the fact that Barkley did fall in the draft and that not all NFL teams are sold on him. Barkley could prove to be the Eagles starting QB or he could just be a career backup. This is all up to him.
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Tim McManus wrote a piece on Barkley after speaking with Trent Dilfer. This goes back a few days, but is absolutely worth checking out.
Dilfer is very high on Barkley. Dilfer was also very high on Foles last year. He actually thought Nick should have been a 1st round pick. I didn’t see that out of Foles, but he did play better than I expected last year.
Dilfer said some interesting things about Barkley. One stood out.
“There is not a lot of difference between Matt Barkley and Eli Manning in their senior film,” said Dilfer. “In fact, I would argue that Matt’s college film is slightly better than Eli’s film.”
Uh….no way. Not even close. I had Eli Manning rated as the #1 player in 2004. I had Barkley rated as a 3rd round player this year. Eli looked like a franchise QB. There were no major holes in his game. Trent is certainly a smart guy and welcome to his opinion, but that’s a really crazy statement to me.
I hope Dilfer is right with the comparison, in terms of how the NFL careers worked out.
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Cecil Lammey of FootballGuys.com has up a piece on Barkley and the Kelly offense. I think you’ll like his conclusion.
“All of these traits – deep accuracy, mobility, intelligence, and quick decisions- are PERFECT for this system.”
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PE.com has a piece on Gocong with a couple of quotes. I’d love to see him on the move so we could get a feel for what kind of shape he’s in. The good news is that his Achilles injury was last summer. He’s had plenty of time to rehab it and get ready for 2013.
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Jimmy Bama and I did a new show. We talked about Matt Barkley, Chris Gocong, SAM, Felix Jones, and some other things. Part of the show was about Jimmy’s bizarre feet. My apologies for that.