You probably recently heard or read Phil Simms' comments about how the hype surrounding Andrew Luck was "a little too much" for his taste, and how Luck, despite all his abilities, seemed to lack the big-time throws required for the NFL. We assumed that this was yet another example of Simms either being contrary just for the sake of it or speaking with his usual level of doofishness, but as it turns out, there's someone a bit closer to the situation who wouldn't place Luck at the top of his list.
Washington Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian, who has engineered quite the little program turnaround at Montlake in the last 2 ½ seasons, used to coach under Pete Carroll at USC and helped to recruit the Trojans' current roster. One of the kids Sarkisian was most responsible for bringing to USC was quarterback Matt Barkley, and Sarkisian was asked on Monday what he thought of Barkley's potential NFL prospects as he got his team ready to face USC this upcoming Saturday.
Given his knowledge of Barkley, and his own history as an excellent developer of college quarterbacks, Sarkisian's answer was certainly interesting.
"His poise in the pocket," Sarkisian said when asked what is most impressive about Barkley's skill set. "I think Matt Barkley is playing at a high level. I said this earlier to the staff and I'll say it to you guys -- if I'm an NFL head coach I'd pick Matt Barkley over Andrew Luck. I think he is playing at that high a level. I think where he fits into the National Football League and his pocket presence and what Lane [Kiffin] is doing with him, the variety of offense that they're playing with, his ability to make all of the throws, anticipate throws, throwing them on time, throwing them accurately, he's fantastic to me. And I know him personally, so I have a little better insight of who he is, what we represents. I think he's fantastic."
Well. Barkley has been impressive of late, especially when putting up six touchdown passes against Colorado last week. But is he really as good as Luck from a prospect perspective? I turned to the always excellent Rob Rang, senior draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, for his take on where the two best possible quarterbacks in this draft class rank in his mind.
With the improvements that Matt Barkley has made this season in his pocket presence and down-field accuracy, he has emerged as the clear second best pro quarterback prospect in the country following only Stanford's Andrew Luck. There is no denying that Oklahoma junior Landry Jones has superior arm strength to Barkley (and Luck, for that matter), but Barkley is significantly more mobile inside and out of the pocket, possesses the intelligence and leadership skills that NFL teams value at the quarterback position and has plenty of arm strength to make stick throws.
His experience in Southern California's pro-style offense means that there is no projecting his skill-set into an NFL scheme. He's already demonstrated the physical and mental abilities needed to be successful. Though he's just a junior, with three seasons as the Trojans' starting quarterback, he has the experience necessary to make a relatively smooth transition into the NFL. I believe Barkley possesses Pro Bowl potential and is the caliber of quarterback that a team can build a Super Bowl contender around. Befitting such status, I currently rate Barkley behind only Luck as the elite prospect (regardless of position) potentially available in the 2012 NFL draft.
Sarkisian will get a more intimate comparison than most — Luck already put up two touchdowns in Stanford's run-heavy 65-21 thrashing of the Huskies earlier this year. With Washington traveling to what could be another expose of Nick Holt's vulnerable defense against Barkley and the USC attack, was Sarkisian engaging in a little gamesmanship, or has Barkley really closed the gap?
We're not certain what Phil Simms thinks (nor are we certain that we care), but it does appear that Barkley has made the 2012 quarterback draft discussion a great deal more interesting.