PHILADELPHIA - Matt Barkley would have been forgiven for being disappointed, frustrated and even a little bitter about the way the NFL draft unfolded for him.
Had he left the University of Southern California a year ago, Barkley may have been the first player chosen instead of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. He would have been at Radio City Music Hall in New York with the other top players and would have strode onto the stage to shake hands with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
He watched this year's draft from his home in California. Three rounds were completed Thursday and Friday and he still hadn't been selected. Finally, the Eagles took him Saturday, trading Jackson-ville a fourth-round pick and a seventh-rounder to move ahead of Kansas City and grab him with the 98th overall pick.
And when Eagles coach Chip Kelly called him, he was ecstatic.
"This comes as a breath of fresh air for me, a new beginning," Barkley said Saturday in a phone interview. "I have no idea why I wasn't drafted earlier, but I stayed positive the whole time. All it takes is one team, and I feel blessed that the Eagles believe in me and are going to give me a chance."
Barkley, 6-foot-2 and 227 pounds, enjoyed tremendous success during his college career at USC, throwing for 12,327 yards with 116 touchdown passes against just 48 interceptions. He also demonstrated all the traits - toughness, leadership and intelligence - that coaches want in a quarterback.
A sprained AC joint in his right (passing) shoulder caused him to miss his last two college games. Questions about his arm strength and lack of mobility began to crop up. Critics wondered if he could make the adjustment from the Trojans' offense to the NFL.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly had no doubts.
Having coached against him for four years at the University of Oregon, he knew without certainty that Barkley could make the jump.
"I'm going to borrow a quote from (former NFL coach) Sam Rutigliano," Kelly said Saturday at the NovaCare Complex. "You never know what's in a tea bag until you put it in water. Well, I saw Matt Barkley up close and personal four times and he answered the bell every time. I couldn't believe he was still out there. The best value on our (draft) board, by far, was Matt Barkley."
Barkley becomes the fifth quarterback on the Eagles' roster, joining Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne.
They provide an interesting mix of styles. Vick, Dixon and Kinne have the ability to run as well as throw, while Foles and Barkley are considered more prototypical pocket passers.
Kelly insisted that all five can fit into his offensive system.
"The key is to play to a quarterback's strengths," Kelly said. "Whatever we do on offense, the quarterback has to be able to throw the football and protect it. I like quarterbacks who are able to run, but I do not want a running back who can throw. That's a misconception.
"And arm strength is overrated. We're not looking for guys who can knock over milk cartons in a cow field. We want guys who can put the ball in the right place, and Matt can do that. Matt's a passer, not a thrower."
Barkley is the fourth quarterback to be drafted by the Eagles since 2007, following Kevin Kolb (second round, 2007), Mike Kafka (fourth, 2010) and Foles (third, 2012), but they have not been able to find a long-term successor to Donovan McNabb since they traded him after the 2009 season.
Now that he is finally an NFL player, Barkley intends to be the answer for the Eagles.
"It was a weird feeling not knowing where you're going to be working or where you're going to have a job," Barkley said. "It was definitely hard to sleep (Friday night) because I was getting a couple of prank calls from unknown numbers. I learned that you can't trust anybody. It was comforting and it was a sigh of relief when (the Eagles called Saturday).
"I'm just so excited to be an Eagle. I could not be more excited to be playing there for that city and that franchise. And I'm going to come in there and compete. I'm coming in and competing for the starting job. I'm looking forward from here on out. I've learned that no matter where you end up, it's just the beginning of the next chapter of your life."
Other than trading up three spots in the fourth round to get Barkley, the Eagles did not pursue any other trades during the draft.
The Eagles were once known as an extremely aggressive franchise, but the only reaching Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman did was when they wanted some food in the team cafeteria.
For three days, they stuck to their predraft rankings on players and simply picked the highest-ranked player when it was their turn to make a selection.
They wound up drafting three offensive players (tackle Lane Johnson, tight end Zach Ertz, Barkley) and five on the defensive side (linemen Bennie Logan, Joe Kruger and David King, safety Earl Wolff and cornerback Jordan Poyer.)
"We were going to take the best player," Roseman said. "We were going to go off our draft board. We were going to make sure we hit on the guys in the order that they came off. That's why we spend nine months doing this."
The Eagles did rely on a bit of inside information, however.
Ertz (second round), Logan (third), Barkley (fourth), Kruger (seventh rounder from Utah) and Poyer (seventh-rounder from Oregon State) all played against Oregon.
"It just kind of worked out that way," Kelly said with a laugh. "We didn't play Oklahoma (first-round pick Lane Johnson's school) or North Carolina State (fifth-rounder Earl Wolff's school). We made up our minds before the draft that we were not going to force the issue and just let things unfold.
"You can't reach for a player just to fill a specific need because that's when you get yourself in trouble. We felt good enough about our draft board that we didn't have to reach."
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