The idea that the Arizona Cardinals aren’t going to take a signal caller in this year’s NFL Draft because they are satisfied with their “quarterback room” is both a cause for joy and a cause for concern.
It’s a good thing that the Cardinals staff, particularly head coach Bruce Arians, is comfortable with the quarterbacks they have. This group is the most talented collection of players the Cardinals have had at the position in a while, and there finally is a real pecking order in place: Palmer, Stanton, Hoyer, and Lindley.
I won’t be shocked if the latter two are no longer with the organization after the draft, even if there is no quarterback in this draft that wows Arians.
I say that because there is something to be said for what Arians has constructed for himself here in Arizona at the quarterback position. It was similar to what Ken Whisenhunt was lucky enough to fall into, and that is a quarterback that will give you time to find your answer.
We’ve already looked closely at NC State’s Mike Glennon and I’ll take a closer look West Virginia’s Geno Smith as we near his workout with Arizona. USC’s Matt Barkley allegedly worked out last Saturday with the Cardinals brass, and Ryan Nassib of Syracuse is scheduled to have his private workout on April 15.
What exactly does Matt Barkley bring to the table? Let’s take a look.
Barkley is the most NFL-ready of any of the quarterbacks coming out in this draft. He shows a good understanding of reading and manipulating coverages, and was given many liberties to call his own plays at the line of scrimmage because of his advanced understanding of the game.
He comes from a USC offense that was heavily rooted in a pro-style West Coast system, something that plays to his strengths of timing, touch and anticipation.
When you watch Barkley in a clean pocket, his mechanics are a sight to behold. He is smooth, clean in his movements and looks the part of a prototype NFL passer.
Barkley is exceptional in the short throwing areas, as he displays an uncanny ability to see the throwing window and get the ball out to his receiver and allow the receiver to make a play after the catch.
Barkley understands where to go with the ball. He is adept at progressing through his reads while he is in his drop.
When his back foot hits, he gets the ball out to his receiver and expects them to take care of the rest.
He attacks the short and intermediate game very well. In the games I charted I noted that 52% of his attempts were less than five yards, and less than 10% were greater than 20 yards.
In that short area, Barkley was hitting just under 73% of his passes, and that was done on a lot of NFL-level slants, comebacks and outs.
When I watch Barkley throw it just seems like he has all the ability in the world to come into a situation like Kansas City, in Andy Reid’s West Coast scheme, and play well.
Barkley has an adequate, if slightly underpowered arm for the NFL game.
Despite his limitations, he actually completes a very good percentage of deep balls. In the games I charted, those 10% of throws over 20 yards resulted in an astonishingly high 50% completion rate.
The problem isn’t that he is not accurate or able to throw deep every once in a while; it is that he needs to be able to throw deep consistently.
In Arians’ offense, there is a higher number of deep balls. For instance, 41% of Andrew Luck’s 2012 throws were over 10 yards. Last season, less than 30% of Barkley’s throws were over that distance.
Luck threw greater than 20 yards 16% of the time. In the games I charted, Barkley did so less than 10%.
Barkley’s arm is definitely adequate for a west coast, timing, short throw based offense. But for Arians’ vertical attack, where the average depth of target is typically around the 10-yard mark, the question remains whether Barkley can the push the ball down the field consistently, accurately and with a little zip on it?
When he does get the ball deep, it isn’t always on a line. Barkley tends to put a lot of air under the ball and allow his receiver to either run under it or make a play on a 50/50 ball.
The area that concerns me the most about Barkley is that he starts to look like a different quarterback when he has some garbage around his feet.
When faced with consistent pressure (something he may have to deal with in Arizona depending on how the draft turns out), Barkley begins to lose some of that incredible accuracy, and his decision making goes from elite to downright concerning.
If Barkley is getting consistently pushed off his spot — something we saw a lot of in 2012 — he doesn’t look like the quarterback that was being mentioned by some as a top 3 prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft if he would have come out.
Instead he looks like a fringe first round pick (I have him ranked lower) and a guy that needs to be put in a specific scheme — with a good offensive line and running game — to take the pressure off of him and let him manage the game.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that I am not a huge Barkley fan.
His game does not lend itself to Arians’ vertical passing attack, as he hasn’t shown a consistent ability to push the ball down the field.
If Barkley was the pick in round two for the Cardinals, it would be an interesting one, simply because it means that Arians and company believe they can tweak something in Barkley’s game, or there was something that wasn’t on the film that will allow him to succeed with the Cardinals in their vertical game.