Why Barkley will be first QB taken

Matt Barkley has the chance to rise up boards ahead of the 2013 NFL draft. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Matt Barkley and his USC Trojans entered the 2012 season with huge expectations, but a Week 3 loss to Stanford derailed their national championship hopes, and a 1-5 stretch to end the season made them one of the biggest disappointments in college football. One of the byproducts was that Barkley's NFL draft stock dropped from that of a likely top-five pick in 2012 to outside the first-round range in 2013.

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: Barkley should be the first quarterback selected in this year's draft.

This might come as something of a surprise, since the consistent knock on Barkley throughout the draft process is that he lacks the "plus" attribute in his game. He has good size at 6 foot 2 and 227 pounds, but not elite size. He has competent arm strength but nothing overwhelming. He can extend a college play but can't create big plays with his speed or agility.

When looking through the prism of the 2012 draft class of quarterbacks, the argument carries weight and is understandable. Yet as Bruce Arians stated at the NFL owners meetings last week in Phoenix, "The two muscles that you play quarterback with you can't evaluate: the brain and the heart. That is a winning quarterback. Until you get in the huddle with them, you don't know what you have."

Drew Brees lacks an overwhelming scouting attribute. So do Tony Romo, Andy Dalton and Matt Schaub. The point I'm trying to make is there are multiple ways to play the quarterback position at the NFL level, with differing skill sets and strengths and weaknesses (something we should have learned last year with the success of Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick), and that getting caught up only in a prospect's physical attributes could cause you to miss out on a very good QB.

Barkley's leadership ability and character are two strong points in his favor (more on that later), but I'll start this analysis off with a look at the way Barkley's skill set and ability project well to the next level.