September 18, 2014

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Day 2 at the NFL combine: USC’s Matt Barkley says arm is strong enough, he’s the best QB in draft

INDIANAPOLIS – USC quarterback Matt Barkley won’t throw Sunday during combine workouts as he continues to recover from a right shoulder separation, but he disagrees with those who think his arm isn’t strong enough to succeed in the NFL.

“Look at the tape,” he said this afternoon at the scouting combine. “I’m not going to go through certain throws, but you can watch the tape where I’ve made throws in tight windows. I can make every NFL throw that you need. So I would disagree.”

Barkley said his rehab is on track and expects to be ready for his pro day.

“I’ll be ready before that,” he said. “I’ve thrown with great velocity, deep balls, already. With all the back, scapula, rotator-cuff movements and exercises that I’ve been doing, I’ll be better than I was before the injury.”

Barkley was projected as a top-10 pick in 2012 but elected to return for his senior season. He and the Trojans struggled and he was hurt. His draft status this year is less certain, although some still feel he can be the first quarterback taken – possibly as high as No. 1 to the Chiefs.

“I believe I am (the best QB in the class), Barkley said. “I don’t think you can go into the draft not thinking you are. I definitely believe I am, yes, sir.”

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. believes Barkley would’ve been drafted by the Browns last year with the fourth pick. Barkley didn’t want to go there.

“No regrets that I came back last year,” he said. “I haven’t looked back once. I wouldn’t change my USC career for anything.”

WORTH A LOOK

If Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel is on the board when the Browns draft in the third round (No. 68 overall), they might have to give him strong consideration – assuming they didn’t take a quarterback in the first round.

Manuel was perhaps the most impressive prospect Friday. He’s tall (6-foot-4 5/8), thick (236) and commands an audience.

Analysts expect him to go anywhere from the first round to the fourth. He believes he’s the best of a suspect class.

“I definitely feel I’m the best quarterback in the class,” he said. “No disrespect to anyone else.”

Manuel was voted team captain at the Senior Bowl, then won MVP.

“It gave me a lot of confidence moving forward,” he said.

Phil Savage, executive director of the Senior Bowl and former Browns general manager, watched Manuel throughout Senior Bowl week.

“He’s a super kid, he has leadership qualities,” Savage told The Chronicle-Telegram. “In the game, he displayed more control, more comfort than any quarterback in the game.

“He throws well enough, he’ll be an intriguing prospect for about half the teams – maybe there’s something to this guy if we work with him. He has excellent maturity and helped himself at the Senior Bowl as much as anybody.”

Manuel completed 68 percent of his passes as a senior with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He said he ran a pro-style attack with some read-option sprinkled in.

“I don’t think I have to be Colin Kaepernick, I don’t have to be Russell Wilson, I can be EJ Manuel,” he said. “But I do see a lot of my abilities in those guys.”