Matt Barkley ended his and USC’s season last night by beating UCLA 50-0. The performance included six touchdowns and just seven incompletions (you can see highlights here), passing Matt Leinart’s single season conference record for touchdowns in the process. He’ll finish the year with a 39/7 touchdown-to-interception ratio, completing 69% of his passes for 3528 yards.
In August I questioned whether Barkley was the #1 overall prospect eligible for the 2012 draft. He won’t go first overall – Andrew Luck has that tied up – but the last few weeks have reignited my belief that Barkley may be the superior talent. He’s at least Luck’s equal. Yes, he’s throwing to two extremely talented receivers. However, to suggest USC’s offensive depth is greater than Stanford’s would be a mistake. The Cardinal have an elite college offensive line and pro-level tight ends. Both quarterbacks benefit from their surroundings, but also get the most out of their supporting casts.
Luck is a fine talent and one that richly deserves a lot of the praise he’s received during the last two years. However, assuming Luck is perfect has stopped people really breaking down his game this year. In the last few weeks he’s not looked as sharp especially when dealing with pressure. He was sacked just twice prior to an overtime victory against Barkley and USC – since then he’s looked a little skittish in the pocket as teams use the Trojans’ example to create a pass rush against Stanford’s line. We should temper the expectations for Luck slightly and I’ll be reviewing the tape of his last four games in a few days. At the same time, Barkley has deserved more consistent praise throughout this season.
National draft pundits haven’t given him enough hype. Todd McShay’s first big board had Barkley in the 20’s as a late first rounder. His most recent piece had him as the #2 quarterback behing Luck and within the top-six players- something that should’ve been the case from the start. It’s perhaps worth a mention that McShay’s latest board also listed Whitney Mercilus as a 360lbs nose tackle with a description to match – he was said to be a two-gap nose tackle. It’s since been changed.
A lot of the knocks on Barkley were about physical restrictions, yet we see perfectly placed downfield passes against the Bruins (he had 41, 42 and 52 yard touchdown passes). He’s technically as good as any quarterback I’ve scouted. For a breakdown, check out this tape review piece I wrote on USC’s victory against Oregon.
So why is Barkley perfect for the Seahawks? There are many reasons. Pete Carroll needs a quarterback to hang his hat on for the long term, someone who can define his offense in his last big shot at the NFL. Why not a player he knows better than anyone? The Seahawks need someone who can start quickly without needing major technical adjustments – Barkley in my eyes could start in week one of his rookie season and enjoy similar success to Matt Ryan’s first term in Atlanta. Seattle’s offense has some developing talent and the offensive line is young, it needs someone who can pull everything together and turn it into a unit that can compete with the best in the league. Barkley is capable of all of these things.
Sure, it would be an expensive trade. It could mean trading into the top-five picks from a position in the mid-first round, similar to the last USC quarterback drafted in round one. It could cost more than one first round pick, or at least a large portion of the 2012 draft. So be it. The Seahawks need to be aggressive in this situation. It’s not to say they’re a quarterback away from an elite squad, but the next step in getting to that position will be finding that guy. It’s the team’s biggest need. Waiting until 2013 will just be delaying the inevitable at a time when the best quarterback may be Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas – a significant drop off to the Luck and Barkley’s available next year.
Of course Barkley will need to decide whether he’s going to even enter the draft, but he’s ready for the NFL. Becoming a legend at USC sounds great on paper, but not as good as becoming a legend in the NFL. Staying with the Trojans will come with an injury risk. If he does enter the draft, it’ll present a rare opportunity for a team to get a #1 talent at quarterback without needing to acquire the #1 pick. Barkley can start quickly for the Seahawks and can take them to where Carroll, Paul Allen and this fan base wants to go. Having been aggressive in their acquisition of Charlie Whitehurst and having flirted with the possibility of trading for Kevin Kolb and Carson Palmer – the Seahawks need to maintain that conviction next April and find a way to draft Matt Barkley.
After today’s depressing loss at home to Washington, where the Redskins scored 16 unanswered points after the Seahawks led 17-7, perhaps this article should be changed to, “Seattle should just draft Barkley when they have the chance”?