This post goes out to anyone trying to read the proverbial tea leaves on Nolan Nawrocki’s scathing scouting report on Geno Smith.
It’s tough, right? The average guy in his living room is almost forced to assume that Nawrocki based his judgments on inside information. On the other hand, scouts like Daniel Jeremiah and Charles Davis took issue with Nawrocki’s impression.
Rest assured, though: Nawrocki was just trying to get his name in the headlines.
How can I be so sure? Not, to the blogosphere’s disappointment, because Nawrocki seemingly held himself out as a racist by comparing Geno Smith to two other black quarterbacks who didn’t find much success in the NFL. At least, not only that.
See, another part of Nawrocki’s article departs so dramatically from reality that it can only render the entire piece suspect:
He grades Matt Barkley as a first round draft pick.
A couple of disclaimers (before the thrashing begins in earnest). Barkley had a great career at USC, and seems like an exceptional person. He has a lot to be proud of. In many ways, it should be disappointing to any fan that he won’t be starting on Sundays.
But Barkley probably won’t be starting on Sundays.
Barkley does not have a pro arm. The ball tends to flutter when it comes out of his hand, even on shorter routes. His arm motion is not particularly quick, either, which can only compound his problems. As Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, and a host of other college greats can attest, the ball has to get the receiver awfully quick in the NFL to avoid a pick six.
Quarterbacks have succeeded in the NFL without a cannon for an arm. Chad Pennington comes to mind. But nothing in Barkley’s tape suggests he can hit receivers in the numbers with the regularity that Pennington did. In fact, Barkley’s accuracy is quite circumspect.
If his tape isn’t ugly enough for you, the numbers should probably do the trick. (I promised a little quarterback data in a previous post.) Barkley’s 2011 numbers look pretty enough when Nawrocki lists them in the aggregate: 308 completions in 446 attempts, to the tone of a 69.1 completion percentage, 3,528 yards, 39 touchdowns, and just 7 interceptions. But in only three of Barkley’s twelve outings that year did he post a decent stat line against a real pass defense: Oregon, UCLA, and Colorado. The rest were either modest passing totals (on a ton of attempts), or big numbers against terrible defenses. All with two of the best receivers in college football on the other end of those throws.
So, no, Barkley does not deserve a first-round grade. Nawrocki just thought he’d beat up Geno Smith and make an outrageous claim about a marginal prospect in Barkley, all in the name of garnering a bit of attention for a publication whose credibility is fading.
Fortunately for Barkley, he doesn’t have the accuracy problems of Tim Tebow. And, while USC ran a lot of spread formations with quick reads, Barkley still seemed comfortable under center and can be seen looking off his first and second receivers for a third option from time to time.
The key with Matt Barkley is draft position. He may be able to polish his game into something valuable for an NFL team, in the mold of Pennington — emphasis on “may.” But he comes into the NFL with work ahead of him and pending health issues. He will need time to develop, if he does at all. Barkley might represent good value from the third round on.