I have been very critical of Matt Barkley over the past 2 years. I was not a big fan of his entering the 2011 season. My thoughts have become slightly altered as of late.
I have seen a great amount of maturity and improvement from the end of 2010 to this point in 2011, and it bodes well for the NFL prospect status of the Junior from USC.
Two thing jump off the page for me when I evaluate Barkley.
First is his football intelligence and decision making. I have truly been impressed with him in this area this season, and IMO, this is where he has grown the most. In the past, I would see Barkley lock into a WR, and attempt to throw him open. Now, a lot of times QB's can get away with this in college, but once they arrive in the NFL, things change. Well, Barkley WAS able to get away with this in his first two years as a starter for USC, but now, in his Junior season, he no longer relies on this mentality. Instead, I see a very cerebral QB, who uses his eyes, and body positioning to move defenders, and then take his open receiver. I have also noticed he has done a tremendous job going though progressions in a very quick manner. This is extremely important for a QB transitioning to the NFL, as the time from snap to throw is usually around 3 seconds. Barkley has show great growth in this area, as well as a extraordinarily quick setup, and over-the-top release.
The second area of improvement is his arm strength and accuracy. Barkley was always seen as a fairly accurate passer, but his arm strength, especially on the Dig, and Deep Out, were an area of concern for me. The 2011 season has been a coming out party in a sense for Barkley. He seems more comfortable with his pocket presence, and the receivers he is throwing to. I believe he has also worked to improve his mechanics in the offseason, as I do not see such a wide base on his drop step anymore. I believe his comfort in these three areas has improved his overall mechanics, and confidence to the point where he feels comfortable to throw, not aim the football. I see better zip, and accuracy on his passes as a result. Now I do still have some questions about the placement of his deep ball, but I do see he has the necessary arm strength to stretch the ball 65 yards downfield, from either inside, or outside the pocket. The placement and accuracy of his deep ball, can, and will be improved in an NFL system.
If I add these two overall improvements, with his ability to throw accurately outside the pocket, I begin to see a QB that fits the style of offense the Redskins like to run. Add in the leadership qualities that Barley brings, and I am starting to believe he may be a better overall fit for the Redskins than I was once willing to admit.
I have spent a lot of time over the past two months studying his game, and I will say that I was wrong with my initial assessment of Barkley entering his junior year. Matt Barkley, the 6' 2", 220lbs QB from USC, will receive my recommendation as the potential number one draft pick of the Washington Redskins in the 2012 NFL Draft.