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Eagles end USC QB Matt Barkley's wait in fourth round of NFL draft

Matt Barkley, once considered a potential top-10 pick, goes to Philadelphia on first pick of fourth round, 98th overall. 'All I need is an opportunity,' he says.

April 27, 2013|By Gary Klein and Sam Farmer
  • USC quarterback Matt Barkley throws during NFL Pro Day.
USC quarterback Matt Barkley throws during NFL Pro Day. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

NEW YORK — Matt Barkley marveled, often helplessly, as Oregon's offense went up and down the field against USC and most other opponents the last four seasons.

The Ducks seemed to score at will, coach Chip Kelly's fast and relentless spread scheme making stars of every quarterback manning the controls.

Now Barkley will try to find his own place in that kind of offense.

On Saturday, the Philadelphia Eagles traded up and chose Barkley with the first pick in the fourth round of the NFL draft.

The call from Kelly, who was hired by the Eagles in January, and other team officials ended two days of frustration for Barkley, the fourth quarterback chosen and the 98th player selected.

Barkley said he was excited to join the Eagles and, in a phone interview, referred to Super Bowl-champion quarterback Tom Brady, the New England Patriots' sixth-round pick in the 2000 draft.

"It doesn't say 'Barkley, Round 4' on the back of my jersey," he said. "All I need is an opportunity."

Barkley was regarded as a possible top-10 pick if he had entered the draft after a stellar 2011 season. But he returned to USC for a final season of eligibility that did not play out as anticipated.

His Heisman Trophy hopes faded as the Trojans spiraled from preseason No. 1 to a 7-6 record. He passed for 36 touchdowns with 15 interceptions in 11 games before suffering a shoulder injury that sidelined him against Notre Dame and for the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech.

Barkley was still projected by some forecasters as a first-round selection, but the Buffalo Bills chose Florida State's EJ Manuel with the 16th overall pick, and no other quarterback was taken in the first round.

On Friday, the New York Jets took West Virginia's Geno Smith in the second round and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose North Carolina State's Mike Glennon in the third.

The Jacksonville Jaguars owned the first pick in the fourth round Saturday, but the Eagles traded up three spots to choose Barkley because, Kelly said, they anticipated other teams might try to do the same.

Kelly selected a quarterback he played against four times, Barkley passing for 807 yards and nine touchdowns in the last two games between USC and Oregon.

"I've seen his skill set up close and personal four times," Kelly told reporters, "and he's answered the bell every time."

Trent Dilfer, a former NFL quarterback and first-round draft pick, said low demand for quarterbacks this year and "the USC thing" hurt Barkley.

"People were drinking the Kool-Aid that USC quarterbacks don't translate," Dilfer said. "I don't think that's factual. . . . It doesn't mean because of the helmet you wore in college it's part of your quarterback DNA."

One NFL team scout, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly, said "accuracy, interceptions and agility in the pocket" hurt Barkley, but he was surprised the four-year starter "fell as far as he did."

But Greg Cosell, analyst for NFL Films, said the fourth round "is what I think his skill set is." The "clear perception" that Barkley was "a top-five or 10 guy last year" was unfounded because he did not go through the evaluation process in 2012, Cosell said.

"When people talk about falling, that's a media thing," said Cosell, who spent Saturday at the Eagles' facility.

On Thursday and Friday, Barkley monitored the television broadcast of the draft at his family's home in Newport Beach.

"I was kind of paying attention, kind of half not," he said. "I wasn't pacing back and forth, but I had my phone on loud."

Barkley said that there were "a lot of emotions going through the household" and that "we were very up at times" because several teams had called to confirm that they would take him at a certain spot if he were available. "And then the pick goes by," he said.

The call from the Eagles brought "a sigh of relief," Barkley said.

Throughout last season and during the run-up to the draft, Barkley said publicly that he had no regrets about his decision to return to USC. Asked Saturday if being a fourth-round pick changed that, Barkley did not hesitate.

"I have not looked back and it doesn't matter if I was the first pick or Mr. Irrelevant," he said. "I have a spot and a chance to prove something as I begin the next chapter of my life, and I can't wait to embrace and grasp the challenge."

Barkley joins a team that features quarterbacks Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Dennis Dixon.

Kelly told reporters that Barkley was rated among the top 50 players in the draft by the Eagles and that "repetitive accuracy" as a passer was more important than running ability. Kelly said, "Sometimes the arm strength aspect of it is overrated."

"We're not trying to knock over milk cartons at a county fair," he said. "It's about if you can put the ball in the right spot at the right time."

Said Barkley: "I'm sure we'll see something of a hybrid system. I'm not worried at all."

Barkley was one of four USC players drafted. On Friday, the Buffalo Bills chose receiver Robert Woods in the second round and the St. Louis Rams took safety T.J. McDonald in the third. On Saturday, center Khaled Holmes was selected in the fourth round by the Indianapolis Colts.

Four UCLA players were drafted. The Green Bay Packers chose defensive end Datone Jones in the first round Thursday. On Saturday, running back Johnathan Franklin was chosen in the fourth round by the Green Bay Packers, punter Jeff Locke the fifth by the Minnesota Vikings and offensive lineman Jeff Baca the sixth by the Vikings.

gary.klein@latimes.com

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Klein reported from Los Angeles, Farmer from New York.

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