And just like that, the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine got a whole lot more interesting.
West Virginia's Geno Smith and Southern Cal's Matt Barkley, the top two rated quarterbacks on NFLDraftScout.com's board and both top-eight picks in Dane Brugler and my current mock drafts, are planning to work out in front of scouts Feb. 24 in Indianapolis, according to reports.
Gil Brandt of NFL.com tweeted Tuesday that he spoke with Smith's agent, Jeff Nalley, and was told the former Mountaineers quarterback "will do [the] full workout" at the NFL Combine.
The news comes two days after Barkley unofficially announced his intentions to also throw in Indianapolis.
Barkley, according to Bill Vilona of the Pensacola News Journal, has recovered enough from a Nov. 17 shoulder injury that ended his collegiate career and has been throwing at IMG Sports Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Barkley told Vilona he sees the combine as "probably the biggest test of my life" and that he plans to go through all of the drills in Indianapolis.
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Though the accuracy, velocity and athleticism they show during the combine will ultimately only play a small role in determining their final draft slot, make no mistake about it, talent evaluators are eager to see the two compete after neither participated in the Senior Bowl.
Barkley was unable to participate in Mobile due to a shoulder injury he suffered after a big hit by UCLA pass rusher Anthony Barr. The blindside hit kept him from participating in the Trojans' highly anticipated matchup against then-No. 1 Notre Dame, as well as the team's Sun Bowl appearance against Georgia Tech.
Smith, like many top-rated passers before him, elected not to participate in the senior all-star game. The decision earned him plenty of criticism as Smith and his Mountaineers teammates struggled down the stretch, losing six of their final eight games, including the Pinstripe Bowl to Syracuse.
Though there is an obvious risk in throwing to receivers neither has had an opportunity to develop any chemistry with, both, frankly, should perform well.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Smith is the more physically gifted of the two. He possesses a stronger arm than Barkley and is a more accurate deep ball passer. While much of his eye-popping statistics (4,205 passing yards with 42 touchdowns against just six interceptions) can be attributed to a relatively passer-friendly offense at West Virginia, he has demonstrated the ability to make NFL-caliber throws when asked to do so.
Barkley, 6-foot-2, 230, does not possess elite velocity but has enough arm strength to make every NFL throw and is consistently accurate, including when on the move. A senior campaign some have characterized as disappointing resulted in Barkley passing for 3,273 yards and 36 touchdowns against 15 interceptions while operating in a pro-style attack.
While each passer is likely to perform well in Indianpolis, the more critical workout will ultimately be their Pro Day, as Smith and Barkley will then be throwing to their own receivers and will be asked to follow a longer, more detailed workout.
West Virginia is currently scheduled to conduct its Pro Day on March 14.
Southern Cal's Pro Timing Day is scheduled for March 27.
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