Both Eagles coach Chip Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman heaped praise on Matt Barkley after the surprising selection of the Southern California quarterback Saturday in the fourth round of the NFL draft.
But Roseman would not confirm the presumption that Barkley was a top-10 pick last season.
"We didn't spend enough time through the whole evaluation process to tell you what he was in last year's draft," Roseman said.
And Roseman is not the only one with that view. It's almost without dispute that Barkley would have gone well before the fourth round had he left school after his junior season in 2011, when Barkley threw for 3,528 yards and a Pac-12-record 39 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. USC finished 10-2, and Barkley's stock peaked.
But NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said, "I just kind of giggle" at the suggestion that Barkley was a top-five or top-10 pick, and there was an entire predraft process that Barkley did not go through. A look at Geno Smith's stock this year is an example of what can happen after the season.
Barkley entered 2012 the presumptive No. 1 pick for this year's draft. His statistics remained impressive despite slipping to 3,273 yards, 36 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. His team finished 7-6, though Barkley didn't play in the final two losses. He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury that affected his passing leading up to the draft.
"When you get a guy like Barkley who is a very competitive kid and the team wasn't anywhere as good as they expected to be, I think he started to force things," Mayock said before the draft. "And when you start to force things at the quarterback position and get outside of your comfort zone, bad things happen."
Still, Mayock thought Barkley could go late in the first round. The value in the fourth round was impossible for the Eagles to ignore. He was the lone top-50 player remaining on the Eagles' board Saturday.
The question is whether the Eagles drafted the heralded prospect from a year ago or a player all the other teams passed on through three rounds this year. Roseman said he did not know why Barkley dropped. Kelly couldn't say why, either, and said: "It wasn't like I think he had a bad year."
Barkley's quarterback coach at USC, Clay Helton, gushed about Barkley's talent and personality and said there was "no difference" in Barkley's performance from his junior to senior season. If there was any major change last season, it was a young offensive line that needed the season to develop. Helton looked at Barkley's slipping more as an indication of the market on quarterbacks than on Barkley.
"His was more of a cumulative effect. The expectations were off the charts. It was basically BCS championship game or bust, and things just fell apart around him," said Steve Clarkson, the noted personal quarterback coach who worked with Barkley and has tutored Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Leinart, among others.
Clarkson said Barkley fits with the Eagles because he makes quick decisions and can react immediately with his pre-snap reads.
Clarkson also insisted that Barkley has not reached his ceiling despite starting four years in high school and in college, and being a well-known quarterback even before he had his driver's license.
"Anybody who is as intelligent as that kid, as competitive as that kid, that ceiling is never going to be an early ceiling because the way he's always been brought up, the way he's always essentially had to reinvent himself, he's barely tapped what he could be," Clarkson said.
Barkley's arm has been the subject of the debate, but Kelly sounded unconcerned, and statistics indicate that's not a problem. Barkley completed nearly 41 percent of career passes longer than 20 yards, with 24 touchdowns and just two interceptions. That percentage is better than Robert Griffin III's at Baylor.
There is one underlying benefit to Barkley's slipping. He was the top quarterback in the country and a Day One starter at USC. He was the face of the program amid sanctions and a poster boy for college football when he returned for his senior season.
As a fourth-round pick, Barkley doesn't arrive in Philadelphia as the franchise savior. He does not need to start opening day. He can develop at the pace Kelly deems necessary. And he is one of three quarterbacks capturing the city's attention - not the sole quarterback. At least, not yet.
Tickets on sale. Eagles single-game tickets will go on sale for all 10 home games Thursday at 10 a.m. They will be available at www.philadelphiaeagles.com and Ticketmaster.com, or by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. Prices range from $75 to $105, and there is a four-ticket limit per household.
Here are Matt Barkley's passing statistics for his four seasons at Southern California:
Barkley was a four-year starter who set Pac-12 career records in 2012 for passing yards, completions, touchdowns, and total offense (12,214 yards).
He won the 2012 Wuerffel Trophy, was a finalist for the Manning Award, Unitas Golden Arm Award, Senior CLASS Award, and ARA Sportsmanship Award.
He was USC's first three-time captain.
He set 20 USC career, season, and game records.
USC touchdown pass leaders: 1. Matt Barkley, 116; 2. Matt Leinart, 99; 3. Carson Palmer, 72; 4. Rob Johnson, 58; 5. John David Booty, 52.