EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 19: Quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans throws a pass in the fourth quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 19, 2011 in Eugene, Oregon. Barkley was 26 of 34 for 323 yards and 4 touchdowns as USC won the game 38-35. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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The 2013 NFL Mock Draft early birds have spoken, and the USC quarterback Matt Barkley is the consensus No. 1 pick for a draft that won't happen for 11 months. Coming after Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III—and before that, Cam Newton, and before that the St. Louis Rams' own Sam Bradford—you'd think the college football ranks would be running low on transcendent, franchise-changing quarterback prospects, but the highly polished Matt Barkley is apparently the next member of that widening fraternity. So: What can you expect from him in 2012?
Sam Bradford, pending the new offense and team-wide competence Jeff Fisher and company are looking to install, is the cautionary tale about quarterback polish here. He put up some big conventional numbers—3512 yards, 18 touchdowns—but they came in a league-wide context that's favoring conventional quarterback numbers more than more, and with a yards-per-attempt number, 6.0, among the lowest in the NFL. 2011's disappointing campaign was among the worst-case scenarios, but not entirely unexpected.
For all that, though, Barkley seems more likely to be pushed into those traps—of an over-conservative offensive coordinator and a supporting cast that needs work—than freed like Cam Newton, who benefited from his multi-dimensional skill-set and a wide-open offense, was. But Andrew Luck will prove a most interesting test case here in 2012.
More NFL Mock Draft news and analysis from SB Nation St. Louis:
- Outside the top spot, teams—the Rams among them—will be wondering the same thing about Robert Woods.
- Meanwhile, I'll be wondering how the mock drafters decide the draft order this early...