2013 NFL Draft

Breaking down Matt Barkley vs Arizona State (2011)

In preparation for the upcoming college football season, I’ve been breaking down games from some of the top draft-eligible prospects for the 2013 draft class. First up were two games of Logan Thomas, and now we’ve moved on to Matt Barkley. In the first game I charted for Barkley against Stanford he looked like a potential 1st-round pick, but also demonstrated some flaws which could cause for a fall once scouts spend more time dissecting his game. I was tipped off by a twitter follower that his game vs Arizona State further exposed some issues, so that’s where we’ll go next.

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Barkley has the talent, but is far from a finished product

As always, you can download the full chart of Barkley’s performance right here.

Downfield Accuracy
In the Stanford game, I was most disappointed by Barkley’s inaccuracy down the field. He completed just 3 of 12 passes beyond 15 yards and only two of the incompletions were accurate throws.

Unfortunately, Barkley’s performance against Arizona State wasn’t much better. He completed just 4 of 12 passes beyond 15 yards and only two incompletions were on the mark, one of which was still arguably a poor decision as it was tipped and could have been intercepted.

A downfield accuracy rate of 50 percent isn’t terrible, especially considering two of the incompletions were 40-yard bombs which have a low success rate, but it does raise some concerns. Many of Barkley’s throws weren’t just off the mark, they were wild and completely uncatchable. Forcing a receiver to adjust is one thing, but giving him no chance at all is far more concerning.

For a good example of the errant throws Barkley is capable of unleashing, take a look at these two throws which just so happen to come on consecutive dropbacks (a few run plays occurred in between).

Decision Making
Another issue which gets raised in this game is Barkley’s decision-making ability. He throws two interceptions in this game, both of which left me scratching my head.

Here’s the first interception, an attempted quick slant which gets picked off by Vontaze Burfict.

I’m really not sure what to say about this play. Clearly Barkley is reacting to the linebacker coming from his blind side, but Barkley still has more than enough time to set his feet and fire a quick strike to Robert Woods cutting across the middle. Instead, he leaps off his back foot and attempts some sort of fadeaway throw which lands in the arms of Burfict. I would much rather see Barkley and take a sack on this play rather than attempt to force the ball using poor mechanics.

The second interception occurs mostly out of desperation, with USC trailing late in the game. Once again Arizona State brings pressure and this time actually gets to Barkley. As he’s being wrapped up, he attempts to float the ball to a receiver in the flat.

Once again, this is simply an inexcusable decision. USC is down two touchdowns with just over six minutes remaining, a difficult but not insurmountable deficit. But by throwing this interception, which gets returned for a touchdown, Barkley seals the Trojans fate.

Mobility
On a positive note, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Barkley’s mobility. USC seems to use designed rollouts three to five times per game, and Barkley excels on these plays. He isn’t a threat to take off running, but he’s more than capable of moving outside the pocket and throwing on the run. His modest arm strength limits his range while on the move, but he has shown the ability to maintain his accuracy on the run on short and intermediate routes.

Next up I’ll take a look at Barkley’s performance against Notre Dame. Look for that sometime late this week or over the weekend.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2013 NFL Draft Leave a comment

Breaking down Matt Barkley vs Stanford (2011)

USC Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley is the consensus top draft-eligible quarterback in the 2013 class, and an early favorite to be the No. 1 overall selection. Over the next few weeks I’ll be charting some of his games from 2011, focusing on the ones against top competition. I’ll kick things off with the Trojans overtime battle against Stanford. You can download the excel sheet of Barkley’s detailed stats and notes on each drop-back here.

Here are a few notes on the game and what stood out about his performance:

Barkley is the consensus No. 1 QB, but far from the next Andrew Luck

Downfield Accuracy
This is the one major weakness in Barkley’s game. Despite having two elite weapons at his disposal in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, Barkley completed just three of 12 passes thrown 15 or more yards down the field in this game. And of the nine incompletions, only two were catchable, giving him a downfield accuracy percentage of just 41.7%. For the sake of comparison, in the two Virginia Tech games which I’ve charted so far, Logan Thomas has a downfield accuracy percentage of 85.7% (12 of 14).

While every quarterback is entitled to a bad game every so often, this has been a trend throughout Barkley’s career. As I continue to chart more games, I expect his 5-12 performance in downfield accuracy to be among the worst, but I also don’t expect to find any perfect 8-for-8 games, as Logan Thomas did against Miami.

Dealing with Pressure
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Barkley’s game is his ability to handle pressure. In this game Barkley completed 13 of 19 passes under pressure, and often did so by buying himself an extra second or two by moving around within the pocket. He does an exceptional job keeping his eyes down the field, even as the pocket is collapsing around him. On one of his most impressive plays from the game, Barkley is forced out of the pocket and hits an open receiver on the run on a comeback route near the sideline. It was one of just two throws he made outside the pocket, excluding designed rollouts.

Quick Release
What Barkley lacks in raw talent (arm strength, athleticism), he makes up for in fundamentals. One of the reasons he handles pressure so well is due to the speed at which he gets rid of the football. We’ve seen plenty of lead-footed quarterbacks rank among the most difficult to sack over the years (Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner, for example) and their success hinged on their quick release. This skill should allow Barkley to make a relatively smooth transition to the NFL compared to a quarterback with an elongated throwing motion. Every rookie quarterback is slow to react to NFL defenses at first, but the ones who can get rid of the ball quickly will survive.

This play offers a good example of how quickly Barkey can get rid of the football. While it isn’t a typical play for Barkley, as he rolls out to his right, it does show his ability to hang on until the last second before firing a quick strike just before getting hit.

Final Thoughts
Had Barkley entered the 2012 draft, he would have been the most polished quarterback after Andrew Luck, and he will likely be among the most NFL-ready prospects (at any position) in 2013. That said, he has some clear limitations. At this point, I don’t hesitate to give Barkley a 1st-round grade, but he’s a solid notch below Andrew Luck and even Robert Griffin. I view Barkley as a Matt Hasselbeck or Chad Pennington-type quarterback – a guy who will likely be given the dreaded “game manager” label, but one who is perfectly capable of stepping up in clutch moments and carrying his team to victory. While he’ll probably be a top-10 pick, at this point I’m leaning toward giving him a mid-1st-round grade entering his senior year.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2013 NFL Draft Leave a comment

An early look at Logan Thomas

The 2013 draft process has officially begun, and to kick things I’ve decided to break down my top prospect entering the year: Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas.

Thomas is only a junior, but his size, athleticism and arm strength are unmatched by anyone in this year’s class. And while Matt Barkley will likely receive much of the early-season hype, if Thomas performs as expected he’ll have a chance to overtake Barkley as the consensus No. 1.

Is Logan Thomas the top quarterback in the 2013 draft class?

To get things started, I charted Thomas’ performance against Virginia and Miami in 2011. For each game I created an excel sheet (vs Miami 2011vs Virginia 2011) which includes a few stats and observations from each time he dropped back to pass (designed runs not included). You’ll also noticed on the right side of the excel sheet, his totals from that game in a few designated categories.

Here’s are my observations from these two games…

Footwork/Fundamentals
I’ll start with the biggest negative about Thomas’s game: his technique. When dropping back to pass, even under no pressure at all, his footwork is atrocious. He sometimes looks like a kid playing intramural football the way he drops back, with absolutely no concept for how to maneuver in the pocket or set his feet to throw. He routinely throws from an open stance and/or off his back foot, even when he has a solid pocket around him.

He’s likely developed these bad habits because he’s never been forced to refine them. Even now, he is often bigger than every defensive end and linebacker on the opposing team, so he’s rarely concerned with getting hit. On one play in the Virginia game he has a defender draped around his waist and still manages to throw a bullet to a receiver 12 yards down the field. With his size and arm strength, refined footwork has never been necessary. But it will become more of an issue at the next level, where defenders and bigger, stronger and faster and the passing lanes are smaller. It will be interesting to see how he develops this aspect of his game during the 2012 season.

Physical Tools
Thomas is a rare physical specimen and the only pros that he can reasonably be compared to are Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger. You just don’t find quarterbacks with his size and athleticism every day, which is exactly why he will be a top 10 pick when he enters the draft. While his designed runs aren’t included in the charts, Virginia Tech uses him on play action runs at least three to five times per game, and he consistently picks up five yards per carry. But what makes him even more special, and in this respect he’s more Newton and Roethlisberger, is the fact that he also has the speed to pick up chunks of yardage on the ground. He broke off long runs up the middle in both games.

Downfield Accuracy
Of the stats I charted, arguably most crucial is the “accuracy” category. Completion percentage is a good guideline, but there are a number of factors which can help or hurt a quarterback in this area. However, while charting accuracy I consider where the ball is placed in relation to the receiver and the defender. For example, a low throw towards the sideline to a receiver in tight coverage can be a great throw, but the same pass to a wide open receiver on a curl route would be classified as inaccurate. By this measure, the quarterback doesn’t benefit or get hurt by the play of his receivers.

Thomas’ completion percentage in both these games was impressive and, fortunately, he has the accuracy percentage to back it up. In both games combined, 18 of his 20 throws beyond 10 yards (measured from the line of scrimmage) were accurate. These are the types of throws NFL teams are most concerned with, and if he can continue that rate of accuracy into the 2012 season, he will solidify his place atop many draft boards.

Offensive Scheme
Virginia Tech runs an offense more similar to an NFL style than Baylor’s, so if Thomas has the tools to succeed no one will hesitate to make him a top pick. However, he does benefit from a favorable scheme which features plenty of snaps from the shutgun. Of the two games I charted, 88 percent of Thomas’ dropbacks came from the shotgun formation.

That said, Virginia Tech’s offense does feature a nice balance of deep, intermediate and short routes. Thomas has demonstrated the ability to remain patient in the pocket, and the ability to fire off a bullet to his receivers on a quick slant or dig pattern. So while he may not be as prepared to digest an NFL playbook as Matt Barkley, he definitely has to tools to play in any system.

What to watch for in 2012
I have no concerns whatsoever about Thomas’ skill set. Physically and mentally he has what it takes to be an elite quarterback at the next level. But he does need to polish up his footwork in the pocket. This issue immediately jumped out on tape, so it’s safe to assume the Hokies coaching staff has been working with him on some improvements. It should be fun to watch him develop, and we’ll get a good look at him in prime time as Virginia Tech opens the season on a Monday night against Georgia Tech.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2013 NFL Draft Leave a comment
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