Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
Their college careers may be winding down, but Southern California's Matt Barkley and Notre Dame's Manti Te'o still have plenty to prove.
Despite starting 43 games each, Matt Barkley and Manti Te'o's 2013 NFL Draft stock is anything but set.
Both are expected to be first rounders in April. We've known as much for years. But where they land in those top 32 picks remains fluid.
Barkley entered the year regarded as the top quarterback prospect by many. But there were some obvious concerns. Is Barkley really as tall as the 6-foot-2 he's listed? What makes him different from recent USC quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez?
Now issues have come up about the USC offense. It's undoubtedly good, averaging almost 35 points a game this season. The trouble is the throws Barkley is making. He's not often asked to make deep throws to the sideline. His arm strength doesn't pop out like that of Geno Smith or Tyler Wilson. What he often gets credit for – his leadership and on-field intelligence – aren't easily measurable traits.
[Also see: Where does Geno Smith go from here?]
Judging by the buzz online, most fans now seem to think Barkley may only be an option for teams running the West Coast Offense. It makes you wonder if NFL general managers have the same feeling. Barkley will get four more regular season chances to prove he's not scheme-specific. On Saturday, he'll face the pass rush of Oregon's high upside end Dion Jordan. Then Barkley will likely get a face-to-face greeting from Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton, followed by a rivalry game against a rejuvenated UCLA. Then, in USC's final regular season game he'll see Te'o, who could have his eyes set on a BCS National Championship opportunity.
Of the two players, it's Te'o who is being more lauded for his efforts this season. Amongst the national leaders in tackles and interceptions, Te'o is now being considered as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate. The season's biggest test for Te'o may come against Oklahoma on Saturday. Since his freshman season, Te'o has been one of college football's most physical linebackers. But he hasn't matched up against an offense that has the tempo and quality of Oklahoma's.
If Te'o can keep up with the quick-striking Landry Jones, his draft stock will go up. Despite inside linebacker being an undervalued position in the NFL Draft, Te'o's stock will only continue rising if he has a good game against USC on Nov. 24. If he falters in either or both games, though, questions about his play will show up, just like Barkley.
To date, Te'o hasn't had a highlight reel game against the Trojans. He only had double-digit tackles once in three meetings and hasn't registered a sack, interception or forced fumble against USC.
Barkley and Te'o are inextricably connected as five-star, blue chip members of the 2009 high school class. Both could have have been first-round picks this year had they not decided to stay in school.
Now, it seems Barkley and Te'o could have some control over each others draft stock.