Once upon a time, Matt Barkley was viewed as the guy who would almost certainly be taken with the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. On paper he seemed to have all of the necessary credentials. He was a talented prospect playing for a preseason No. 1 team with no legitimate competition at his position. Geno Smith out of West Virginia was obviously viewed as a pretty gifted passer as well, but he didn’t have any of the same sort of momentum behind him that Barkley did.
Unfortunately, Barkley’s draft stock peak came on paper. Once the games actually began, and as soon as people noticed how little of an impact he really seemed to have on USC’s ability to overcome its terrible defense, his value dipped lower and lower. By season’s end, it was below ground level. At this point where he ends up is anyone’s guess, but it is definitely safe to say that he will not be the high-end, highly-touted draft pick that he was foreseen to be before this year began.
Fortunately for him and unfortunately for others, Barkley isn’t the only one who’s perceived NFL-readiness took a massive hit this year. Remember when LSU was supposed to have two defensive players go in the top five? Or how about Marcus Lattimore, prior to his injury, being a lock to be the first running back off the board? Even guys like Tyler Wilson who weren’t as heralded going in experienced some residual effects from lackluster campaigns.
The great thing about the draft being so far away is that it gives a lot of these guys a chance to redeem themselves – at least somewhat. Smith will try to prove to scouts that he is more of the player folks saw at the beginning of this past season than the end. Barkley will look to show that he was just the latest victim of Lane Kiffin’s ineptness, not a Matt Leinart-like surefire bust that many forecast him to be. LSU’s defensive players, Wilson and everyone in between will do the same – try to increase their value as much as humanly possible through interviews and impressive Combine showings.
Will they be successful? It is impossible to say right now.
With all that being said, here is how we envision picks 16-23 of this year’s draft shaking out.