By Zach Berman The Philadelphia Inquirer
Chip Kelly’s ongoing insistence that he does not require a mobile quarterback was validated on Saturday, when the Philadelphia Eagles traded up in the fourth round of the NFL draft to take USC quarterback Matt Barkley.
Barkley was expected to be a top 10 pick in 2012 before he returned to school in a decision that likely cost him more than $10 million. One of the most decorated players in college football the last four seasons, a decline in production and a shoulder injury caused his stock to dive. But he remained an intriguing prospect.
“We had Matt rated as one of the top 50 players in this draft,” Kelly said. “The fact that he was still there, we talked about all along that we were going to take value. And there was no better value than us to open up today and take Matt.”
Barkley would have seemed to be the ideal fit for Andy Reid’s offense in Philadelphia, but he did not seem to be a fit for Kelly. Even Barkley was surprised the Eagles picked him. Barkley, 6-foot-3 and 227 pounds, is more of a pocket passer than a running threat. That did not matter to Kelly and the Eagles, and Kelly continued to emphasize it’s a “misconception” that he requires a running quarterback in his offense.
“Everything we do, our quarterback has to be able to throw,” Kelly said. “If the fact that they have the ability to run, I believe that’s an added bonus. But that’s not the precursor to what we do. We’ve said it since day one. If anyone asked me when I was at Oregon recruiting, I wanted a quarterback that has the ability to run. I don’t want a running back that can throw.”
Barkley did not know why he fell to the fourth round, and he said he’s fully recovered from a sprained shoulder that sidelined him for USC’s bowl game and much of the pre-draft process.
Throughout the last few months, Barkley emphasized that he did not regret his decision to return to USC.
“I stayed positive this whole time and haven’t looked back,” Barkley said during a teleconference on Saturday. “All it takes is one team, and I’m blessed that the Eagles believe in me and are willing to give me a chance. And I’m looking forward from here on out. And no matter where you end, it’s just the beginning of the next chapter, next story of your life.”
In Barkley’s last chapter, he completed 64 percent of his passes for 12,327 yards, 116 touchdowns, and 48 interceptions. He set 20 USC records. In 2011, he threw four touchdowns in a 38-35 road victory over Oregon. Three Eagles picks were on teams that beat Kelly.
Kelly emphasized that he was impressed by Barkley’s poise. Barkley played in Oregon’s Autzen Stadium as a freshman, was a four-year starter throughout high school and college and impressed Kelly during an in-person interview at February’s scouting combine. Kelly compared quarterbacks to teabags, not knowing what they can do until they’re put in hot water.
Barkley possesses the “intangible qualities you really look for, and it’s tough to quantify it,” Kelly said. “There’s not a test for it. But over time, you watch him play, he’s played through all kinds of different scenarios at USC.”
Questions leading up to the draft focused on Barkley’s arm strength. He has rehabbed his shoulder and will be ready for rookie minicamp beginning May 10. Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor had a private workout with Barkley. Kelly said Barkley “can deliver the ball”, and that arm strength can be overrated.
“We’re not trying to knock over milk cartons at a county fair,” Kelly said. “It’s about if you can put the ball in the right spot at the right time.”
Barkley said he’ll show the arm strength in camp. He said he received prank calls on Friday night and was relieved when Howie Roseman called Saturday and asked if he wanted to be an Eagle, putting an end to three-day wait.
“Just give me a shot,” Barkley said, “and I can’t wait to see where it leads.”
Barkley is the fifth quarterback on the Eagles’ roster. He joins Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Dennis Dixon, and G.J. Kinne. The quarterback who wins the job will not need to be mobile, which runs counter to conventional thinking about Kelly’s offense and was validated by the Barkley selection.
“In this league, you got to be able to throw the football,” Kelly said. “That’s the first skill set we’re looking for. Repetitive accuracy is the No. 1 quality we’re looking for in a quarterback.”