Why Matt Barkley is a first-rounder

Matt Barkley threw for 3,273 yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions for USC last season. Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Over the past two seasons, the NFL draft has given the league such an extraordinary amount of quarterback talent that it has set a high level of draft expectations for future field generals.

That is one reason why former USC Trojans passer Matt Barkley, who was once considered a slam dunk first-round pick, has seen his stock fall to the extent that he is no longer rated as a first-rounder in most mock drafts.

This decline is understandable at some level given that Barkley has a number of question marks surrounding his game. Yet when one takes a more detailed look at his situation, it becomes clear those issues are overblown. Barkley is a bona fide first-round-caliber pick.

Let's examine each of those question marks.

Question mark No. 1: Why wasn't Barkley as good in 2012 as he was in 2011?

Barkley did see a decline in his completion percentage and touchdown-to-interception ratio over this time frame, yet a quick review of his metrics by route depth from each season shows that is a poor proxy for summarizing his performance.