We already had the strongest statement on Matt Barkley in this draft, and in relation to his peers at his position group. It happened when the lights went out at Radio City Music Hall Friday night, and his name still hadn’t been called.
So when the Eagles traded up three spots (which cost them a seventh-round pick sent to Jacksonville) to select Barkley and end his fall with the first pick in the fourth round, their actions made an even stronger statement about the future of another quarterback on their roster.
Barkley has been consistently slotted into the pocket passer category throughout this draft process, and in these heady times of spread offenses and mobile pivots who run the read option, that’s almost an insult. Of course, the same category insult can be applied to Foles. So with both now on the roster and Michael Vick the presumed starter (a risky assumption at best here in late April), who gets voted off the island?
The answer is likely and maybe Foles, because for Chip Kelly and his uptempo offense, Barkley’s greatest weakness may actually be a strength.
Barkley’s lack of high-end mobility has been a secondary concern next to his arm strength, or a lack thereof. In fairness, the poor velocity on Barkley’s deep throws during his Pro Day workout may have been effected by a still recovering shoulder injury which kept him on the sideline during the Combine. That in turn could have also contributed to his draft tumble.
But even long before that injury, velocity was a concern for Barkley. He doesn’t have a Chad Pennington noodle arm to the extent that making a simple cross-field completion on an out route or curl is a monumental task. Instead, the zip on his ball is fine and sufficient, but it doesn’t meet that higher caliber. Many an NFL quarterback has succeeded with arm strength that’s somewhere between average and good, but they have to be in the right system, one which caters to what they do well and consistently puts them in a position to thrive.
Kelly’s system could quite easily be that system for Barkley.
Often in Kelly’s offense, intermediate throws are emphasized to put receivers in space, and give them an opportunity to create after the catch. The deep ball is certainly present, but we’re not talking about a vertical offense here. It’s one where LeSean McCoy will likely be asked to juke and jive in the open field, as will DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Their athleticism will be utilized, and Barkley will be asked to be the deliverer, of sorts.
All of this thinking is done under the assumption that at least a significant chunk of Kelly’s Oregon playbook finds its way into the Eagles’ offensive pages. Also, with all the “ifs” on the Eagles’ quarterback depth chart which is now as congested as the Jets’ depth chart at the position (five quarterbacks) and the unpredictable nature of Kelly’s thinking, we’re intentionally burying the obvious here: as a fourth-round pick, Barkley can be groomed and developed for a season during the final year of Vick’s current contract, and then maybe by then his deep throwing improves, and he’s an even more viable starter.
As Kelly himself said, that’s why this pick was easy here on Saturday. Barkley is a quarterback who would have been a first-round pick — and maybe even a top 10 pick — a year ago had he left USC, and often this year he was discussed as a second rounder at worst. In a press conference Kelly said the Eagles had a top 50 grade on Barkley, and now nearly 50 picks beyond that at 98th overall, they were able to get their guy.
That’s the definition of great value.