Matt Barkley has been one of the most closely scrutinized prospects in the 2013 draft class. Widely considered a Heisman Trophy front runner and potential No. 1 overall draft pick entering his senior campaign at USC, the quarterback endured an uneven season, as the Trojans (7-6) became the first preseason No. 1 to lose six games.
Barkley's campaign actually ended in the Trojans' penultimate regular-season game against rival UCLA, when the signal-caller separated his throwing shoulder. Still rehabbing from the injury, Barkley will not throw at the NFL Scouting Combine, opting instead to let it fly at USC's March 27 pro day.
With all of that in mind, former NFL scouts (and NFL draft veterans) Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks tackle a simple question: Will Matt Barkley be a first-round pick in April?
Jeremiah: Not a first-rounder
I don't expect Matt Barkley to be selected in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft. That's not to say that Barkley won't have a successful NFL career, but I have a strong belief that his name won't be called on that Thursday night in late April.
If you study the drafts of the last decade, you will find a very simple formula for quarterbacks selected in the opening round: They possess at least one rare physical trait. They either have exceptional size, arm strength or athleticism -- or a mix of those characteristics. Last spring, NFL scouts measured Barkley at just under 6-foot-2. He has enough arm strength to make all the throws, but lacks what scouts would term a "big" arm. He has very mediocre overall athleticism, failing to score above-average in any one physical trait.
Despite lacking the ideal physical tools, Barkley still might have been selected in the first round of last year's draft because of his exceptional performance during his junior campaign. Unfortunately, he didn't enjoy the same success in the 2012 season. His completion percentage dropped by five points, he threw at least two interceptions in six different games and he closed out the year on a sour note -- tossing nine picks in his last four contests before a shoulder injury prematurely ended his USC career.
Barkley also must deal with the USC quarterback stigma. Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez both struggled after promising starts to their NFL careers. There is a concern that both players lack a killer instinct, and that characterization has been unfairly cast upon Barkley by some evaluators.
I do believe Barkley can develop into a solid starting quarterback in the NFL. Whether or not he's selected in the first round will have zero impact on his chances for success. Last I checked, Russell Wilson proved exactly that.
Brooks: Guaranteed Day 1 pick
The reports of Matt Barkley's draft-day demise have been greatly exaggerated, in my opinion.
Pardon me for the loose play on Mark Twain's famous quote, but I believe the USC quarterback remains a legitimate first-round candidate. In fact, I'm certain he will hear his name called on the Day 1, based on his combination of talent, toughness and football intelligence.
Barkley is a prototypical pocket passer with outstanding instincts, awareness and anticipation. Additionally, he is a cerebral playmaker with a keen understanding of directing a sophisticated pro passing game. Barkley has invaluable experience making checks and adjustments at the line of scrimmage, while also showing a tremendous feel for hitting open receivers on sight adjustments and hot reads against the blitz. Factor in his 47 collegiate starts, including a number of big games on a national stage, and Barkley is ideally suited to make a seamless transition to the pro game.
Now, I know scouts will nitpick Barkley's lack of ideal height, athleticism and arm strength, but it is hard to dispute the production throughout his USC career. Barkley completed 64.1 percent of his passes for over 12,000 yards, with an impressive 116:48 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Throw in the fact that he starred in a pro system that features several concepts utilized by most offensive coordinators in the NFL, and it's easy to see why Barkley will become a favorite of evaluators during the run-up to the draft.
With several teams in desperate need of a franchise quarterback and few options available on the open market, there is no way Barkley falls out of the first round. I guarantee it.
Bucky Brooks and Daniel Jeremiah will regularly debate hot-button issues related to the draft as we move through the preparation process. Follow them on Twitter @BuckyBrooks and @MoveTheSticks.