USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who was considered to be one of the top prospects for the 2012 NFL draft, has decided to go the Matt Leinart route and stay in school. As a result, almost everyone involved stands to benefit…except for quarterback-needy teams not on track to pick early in next April’s draft.
This biggest benefactor, of course, is Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, who will now likely emerge as the definitive No. 2 quarterback in the draft, behind Stanford’s Andrew Luck.
The team to land the top pick — likely the Colts — benefits because a thinner group of top-notch quarterbacks might force a team to sell even more of the farm (if not the whole damn thing) in a desperate attempt to trade up and grab Luck or Griffin. So long as Luck and Griffin gain value, so too do their price tags in a trade.
And Barkley presumably benefits by becoming the early favorite to go first overall in the 2013 draft. Of course, he’s also taking a risk that his production won’t drop off and he won’t suffer an injury during his senior season, derailing his future before his big payday.
And of course it should be a given that every other prospect who has already declared for the draft and is slated to be a first-round pick benefits, at least slightly, from the pool becoming a little shallower.
Teams that might stand to suffer from this move include the Raiders, Seahawks, Bills, Dolphins and Redskins, but that net might be cast wider if Barkley’s decision sparks a chain reaction. See, Griffin and Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones also have yet to declare for the draft with only three years of service under their respective belts.
In fact, Sports Illustrated’s Tony Pauline reported earlier today on Twitter that both Griffin and Jones are leaning toward staying in school, which would severely weaken a draft class that was supposed to be flush with quarterbacks.
It should be noted that Luck still technically has one year of eligibility remaining as a redshirt junior. He walked away from the draft as a surefire top pick a year ago, so there’s no reason why he wouldn’t do the same if the circumstances weren’t to satisfy him this time around.
This could be the beginning of a trend. With the new collective bargaining agreement doing away with $50 million guarantees and gargantuan annual salaries for unproven first-round picks, it’s easy to understand why prospects are thinking twice before rushing into the draft. Because they’re no longer immediately striking the jackpot in the pros, the sense of panic among these players has diminished.
I have to admit I’m a little conflicted. As an NFL fan and blogger, I want to see as much talent as possible in the league, as quickly as possible. But as a sports fan in general and someone who believes that post-secondary education makes our society a better place, it’s refreshing to see more players consider staying on campus for an extra year (or two).