Barkley might (should?) be first QB picked

The hype machine works both ways. Take USC quarterback Matt Barkley. He went from "The Second Coming" to "The Biggest Loser" in just one football season, at least according to many fans.

Neither estimation accurately describes Barkley. The reality, however, is he's closer to the former than the latter, something that more than a few folks seem to be figuring out.

Barkley didn't have a great season in 2012, but his season was better than about 90 percent of the quarterbacks in the nation. And he's still going to be an early round NFL draft pick.

Former Washington quarterback and current ESPN analyst Brock Huard picks up this very subject:

While there are plenty of reasons for the Trojans' fall, including depth and injury issues and defensive gaffes and meltdowns, Barkley can't make excuses. So I'll make them for him, and explain why I think that after his pro day workout at USC on Wednesday, NFL teams will begin to agree with what I already believe to be the case: that Barkley should be the first quarterback selected in this year's draft.

Huard takes the measure of Barkley in five ways: Throws downfield, third-down passing, red zone productivity, movement passing and durability and availability.

First, Huard points out that Barkley was: 1. A better downfield passer than Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III; and, 2. Better on third down in 2012 than in 2011.

Red zone? How about this: "... over the last two seasons Barkley's 42 touchdown passes on 116 attempts in the red zone speak loudly to the signal-caller's vast experience and productivity in that part of the field. Over that same stretch, Barkley was intercepted and sacked just three times."

Movement passing? Barkley's numbers outside the pocket and against blitzes are outstanding.

As for durability, Huard notes Barkley started "47 of 51 games over his four years in Los Angeles."

Finally, Huard alludes to strong intangibles. Barkley has seen a lot as a four-year starter in the premier job in college football, and he's a good leader.

The take-away is simple: While USC had an epically disappointing 2012 season, and much of the blame for that -- fair or unfair -- fell on Barkley, it's still possible he ends up becoming a first-round NFL draft pick this spring.