Why Matt Barkley Wasn’t Worse This Year: A Metrics Breakdown

Posted on February 11, 2013


I don’t think Barkley was much worse, if at all this year. It all started last year when I incorrectly assumed Barkley would be coming out, so naturally I did a lot of work on his statistics. One turn of a Christmas ornament rendered all my work moot, but luckily I get to use it this year to look at Barkley from a longitudinal perspective. The media and fan hype surrounding Barkley has risen to a fever pitch, everyone in sight constantly talking about how much worse Barkley got. I’m not going to explain why those perceptions around Barkley exist, but rather why they are relatively incorrect. There are things outside of statistics to look at, but from a purely numbers perspective, he wasn’t much worse.

What I’m looking for when I examine these numbers are any positive or negative trends through the two years. Do we see improvement in any particular area or did everything get worse? My system last year for collecting data on QBs was relatively primitive, so all I have are completion percentages, drops, targets, and adjusted completion percentage. However, I believe those to be enough to judge Barkley on a solid level. As a note, this will be my last QB post for a while, after this I plan on posting breakdowns of Ertz v. Eifert and then the top 3/4 CBs in this draft.

Did He Change Where He Threw The Ball?


  • Barkley threw less screens this year, instead throwing more 1-5 yard passes. In USC’s offense where 5 yard slants are frequent, this actually represents a step up in difficulty for Barkley. There is no doubt in my mind that having to hit first read slants is much harder than hitting screens more often.
  • He threw more intermediate passes. Barkley upped the amount he threw in both the 6-10 and 11-20 yard range by about 3% in total. This is pretty statistically insignificant and doesn’t represent a huge change in either zone.
  • Those throws came at the expense of the deep ball. That 3-4% in the intermediate zones came from the 15.5% of deep balls he threw in 2011 to move it down to 11.5%.

How Did His Accuracy Change?


(Drops were factored out for both years)

  • I cannot stress this point enough. If Barkley completed screens at the same rate as he did in 2011, his overall yearly completion percentage would have been slightly higher than 2011 at 70.88% for 2012.
  • Think about that. If his completion percentage was higher than it was last year, do you think there would be as much negative hype surrounding Barkley in this draft season?
  • He threw the deep ball more accurately. Not only was he very similar to last year, the one point people harped on constantly (his ‘noodle arm’), actually got better. By 12% points. I don’t see how you can complain about this particular attribute if it got better. I’m not saying you have to like Barkley’s deep ball, but if it wasn’t a problem last year for you, it wasn’t this year either.
  • Nothing else changed significantly. We see some slight drops in the 1-20 yard ranges, but only between 1 and 3% points which aren’t particularly significant.

Other Interesting Bits

  • His wide receivers had nearly identical drop rates in 2011 and 2012. In 2011 his receivers dropped 6.64% of balls and 6.59% in 2012. While dropped balls don’t even remotely begin to account for receiver skill, there’s nothing drastically different here.


This is going to be shorter than my normal scouting reports because I don’t have nearly the same amount of data to compare. However, I felt it was important to write because the hype about Barkley’s “bad year” is incredibly frustrating. Sure, there are things on tape that might warrant such a label, but it’s not all bad. We actually see improvement in a crucial area and only a significant drop in his screen game. Nothing else changed. Someone other than I can go look at the quality of his offensive line and how long he had to throw the ball to see how that matches up. Frankly, I don’t see anything to indicate he had a particularly bad year.

I’m not trying to tell you to like Barkley if you don’t. What I’m saying is, if you liked Matt Barkley last year, you should like him this year too. Look at film and the numerous other factors to understand why he got worse, but it wasn’t anything particular in his passing. Make informed decisions and understand what happened with Barkley, but don’t instantly buy into the combined fan and media hype that Barkley was much worse this year.

Posted in: Quarterbacks