- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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A year ago, USC quarterback Matt Barkley might have been a top-five pick in a quarterback-heavy first round. This year, he was still on the board at the start of Day 3. For the Philadelphia Eagles, who are looking for a long-term solution at the most important position on the field, he represented too much value to pass up. The Eagles began the day by trading up from the fourth pick of the fourth round to the first pick of the round to draft Barkley with the No. 98 overall pick in the draft.
The immediate reaction is all about "system" and the fact that Barkley's not a running quarterback and therefore might not be a fit for the kind of offense everybody expects new Eagles coach Chip Kelly to run. I think that's a bunch of garbage. Good coaches don't impose a rigid offensive "system" and find players they think fit into it. Good coaches find the best possible players and figure out a way to design plays and systems around them. That's how you win -- and how you last -- in the NFL.
Besides, the most important thing for a quarterback in the kind of up-tempo offense Kelly ran at Oregon isn't foot speed. It's intelligence and decision-making speed. The knock on Barkley is insufficient arm strength for downfield accuracy, but where he grades out well is as a smart, thoughtful and effective decision-maker the likes of which Kelly needs if his goal ends up being to run as many plays as possible on offense in a game.
So yeah, it's a good pick. Getting a quarterback in the fourth round who was, not long ago, thought of as a potential No. 1 overall pick and played at a high level against top competition in college is a good pick. What does it mean for 2013? Hard to say. It's not crazy to think Barkley could outperform Nick Foles or even Michael Vick in preseason and be the Eagles' Week 1 starter, but the greater likelihood is that he's just added to the crowded quarterback mix and given time to learn the NFL game and the way Kelly wants to operate within it and ends up starting later in the season or in future seasons.
The point is that the Eagles think Barkley can be a good NFL quarterback, and whether he can run or not is completely irrelevant. If Barkley turns out to be an effective quarterback in the pros and Kelly can't run as much read-option as everybody seems to want to run at this particular moment in NFL history, Kelly's not going to care, because he's going to have a good quarterback. If Barkley turns out to be the kind of player we thought he was going to be a year ago, Eagles fans are going to forget all about the read-option craze and be very happy this happened at the start of this year's fourth round. And if not? It only cost them a fourth-round pick and one of their four seventh-round picks (No. 210 overall). Totally worthwhile move for a very good value, and it could pan out in a big way.