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Thursday, December 22, 2011
How Barkley's decision hurts Dolphins

By James Walker

USC's Matt Barkley, arguably the second-best quarterback prospect behind Stanford's Andrew Luck, decided to return to college for his senior year on Thursday. That was bad news for the Miami Dolphins, who certainly would have been a top target for Barkley in next April's NFL draft.

Miami's biggest priorities this offseason are finding a new coach and a long-term solution at quarterback. Barkley's return to school makes the latter search much more difficult.

There were expected to be four first-round quarterbacks in college this season. Luck will be long gone with the No. 1 overall pick. With Barkley's exit, that leaves Baylor's Robert Griffin III and Oklahoma's Landry Jones.

Miami currently holds the No. 8 overall pick and could lose out on Griffin -- who won this year's Heisman Trophy award. According to the latest mock draft by ESPN's Todd McShay, Griffin could go to the Washington Redskins at No. 7. I think the Cleveland Browns, who currently sit at No. 4, also are a possibility.

With no Luck, Barkley or Griffin, that would leave Jones as the only first-round option for Miami. Jones has a great arm. But he lacks mobility and, in my opinion, has the biggest bust potential of the four quarterbacks.

If Jones is the only quarterback choice in the first round, it will be interesting to see the Dolphins' draft strategy. Veteran quarterback Matt Moore has played solidly this season and is 5-5 as a starter.

Maybe Barkley's decision will force Miami to fill another need other than quarterback in the first round.