I've read a lot of analysis in the last sixth months that Matt Barkley cost himself money by returning to play for a senior season at USC. He was a surefire "top-10 pick" back in 2012 and then fell back to Earth.
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This analysis always struck me as strange. How does anyone know what a prospect's stock is while he still is in college? Brady Quinn once was viewed as a surefire top-five pick. Cam Newton was seen as a late first-round pick by some after the college season ended. Similar doubts existed about Robert Griffin III.
Barkley is a player who got a lot of attention because he played at USC, but it's not his senior season that should knock him out of the top 10. It's his skill set.
"I don't think Barkley really hurt himself," one AFC college scouting director told NFL.com's Albert Breer. "He was the same guy last year. He didn't start falling in October, no matter where he was on everyone's 'big board' in December. I looked at Barkley (after his junior year), and I thought he was a backup quarterback. I told people, 'I'm not sold.' And it was the same thing this year. In the end, I don't think he hurt himself."
Another AFC college scouting director echoed those sentiments:
"Based on his junior tape, he was a second-rounder for us anyway. That's his talent. Coming back, you could argue that, with (fewer) quarterbacks this year, he should've rose to the top," the scouting director told Breer.
Barkley didn't fall. The public -- and by extension the draft community -- caught up to his true level. Barkley was smart to enjoy life at USC while he could.