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Could Matt Barkley surpass Geno Smith as best QB in draft class?

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Two weeks ago, there was a report that an NFL scout and veteran team executive were unimpressed with quarterback Matt Barkley. The former USC standout responded by reiterating his commitment to football, sentiments echoed by his college coach, Lane Kiffin.

The takeaway wasn't about Barkley's potential as an NFL quarterback but that, at this time of year, obfuscation rules. What an anonymous front-office type said yesterday might have little meaning today (and, frankly, it might have had little meaning then). Teams are jockeying for players who best fit their needs. To do that usually involves plenty of misinformation -- either good or bad -- that challenges conventional wisdom.

(For example: the Raiders are reportedly interested in Geno Smith. Maybe they are. Most likely they aren't. But the thought that they might be could prompt a team like the Cardinals to trade up for Smith. This assumes, of course, that the Cards are interested. You can see how a decision tree can quickly become unwieldy.)

So it's with a grain of salt that we bring you the latest assessment of Barkley's talents.

"I think Matt [Barkley] can catch [Geno Smith to be the first quarterback drafted in April]," one AFC college scouting director told NFL Network's Albert Breer. "You get the right system, a team that fits what he does, a West Coast-type team, and I can see where he'd go ahead of Geno. I don't see Geno as a top-10 guy, either, but you get a team in dire straits -- and there are teams in the top 10 that really need quarterbacks -- that feel like they have to take one, worry he won't be there in the second round and force yourself to do it. And in that scenario, I could see where certain teams would like a Barkley over Geno."

Breer put the same question -- Barkley vs. Smith -- to another AFC college director late last week and got this response: "I'd say, 'No,' based on the ones I've seen. [Smith] has the most impressive body of work, he throws it well, has the arm strength, makes good decisions and has mobility and accuracy. And I don't think it's a strong enough group as a whole for anyone to pass him."

In the latest NFLDraftScout.com mock drafts, Rob Rang has Barkley going to the Jets ninth overall (and just one pick after the Bills take Smith), while Dane Brugler doesn't have Barkley as a first-rounder. (He has the Cards drafting Smith at No. 7.)

Whatever happens, this much is certain: We'll be talking about it for the next eight weeks.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the Pick-6 Podcast on iTunes. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.

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