Print and Go Back ESPN.com: USC Trojans [Print without images]

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Barkley, Woods moving on draft boards

By Garry Paskwietz

The 2013 NFL draft is fast approaching with a lot of uncertainty at the top of the draft board for a pair of Trojans.

Robert Woods and Matt Barkley both had successful careers at USC while putting up huge numbers, but there doesn’t seem to be a firm opinion from draft experts on where they might get selected or if it will be in the first round. There is even doubt as to which of them will be picked first. For a long while it seemed a sure thing that Barkley would be the first USC player selected but there has been some momentum for Woods lately that could put him in the mix.

Robert Woods, Matt Barkley
Robert Woods and Matt Barkley are both hoping to be first-round draft picks.
It’s not a secret to understand why Woods has risen as the evaluations have been completed by the NFL scouts. As a third-year junior at USC, Woods had not been thoroughly evaluated by NFL scouts last year. Former Trojans coach Pete Carroll used to always counsel underclassmen about the reality of that part of the process: If the NFL scouts don’t know a player is coming out, they simply do not do the evaluation work on him during the season that they do on players they know will be part of the draft.

That meant the scouts knew of Woods and certainly knew of his production, but there was still a lot to be learned during the scouting process that could move him up or down draft boards. After seeing him at the combine, getting to know him during interviews and watching him work on the field at USC's pro day, it comes as no surprise to see Woods possibly inching into the first round.

Woods is a pro’s pro, a guy who has possessed a professional approach to the game from the moment he walked on campus three years ago. USC coach Lane Kiffin started him from Day 1 and that was after commenting in fall camp that, “every time I turned around, Woods had his head in the playbook.”

Whichever team selects Woods is going to get a receiver who will catch the ball, run good routes and block. Minnesota and Houston are two teams that are being mentioned most often as possible destinations.

For Barkley, the draft will offer a much-welcomed respite from all the talk about his shoulder, his decision to return to USC for his senior year and the potential impact that had on his draft status. Once his name is called on draft day, Barkley will simply head to his new city and go to work. This is a young man who has gone into every football season since 2005 as the starter for his team, so he knows what it takes to get ready for the season.

There have been a lot of differing opinions on Barkley in recent months ranging from those who think he has what it takes to be an effective face of a franchise as a starting quarterback to those who think he lacks the arm strength to be an elite player. One area that clearly has impressed is his classroom work and interview sessions where football people get to see that he’s the real deal.

Barkley isn’t a guy who is going to get flustered at learning the playbook and you aren’t going to have to worry about him causing any problems. These are important items for NFL teams and Matt is getting excellent feedback in those areas. Now it’s simply a matter of finding the right fit with a team that is comfortable in making the selection.

The good news for Barkley is that he plays quarterback. Geno Smith figures to be the first quarterback taken, and that will probably happen in the first 10 picks. After that, there is no clear choice for the next quarterback selected, although many draft experts seem to think it will be Barkley. That means a lot of picks will be made in the first round that don’t involve the quarterback position and it will be interesting to see how that plays out late in the round. Will someone trade up because they are tempted by the need at such an important position? That’s always possible. Jacksonville, Arizona and Buffalo are three teams mentioned often as potential destinations for Barkley.