Tag Archive: Pre-Season Scouting Report


Hamilton has plenty of ability, but I don’t think he projects as a #1 WR at the next level in part because of how raw his route running is.

Size: Hamilton is listed at 6’3, 209 pounds and he certainly looks like a big receiver on film. His size makes him an attractive red zone target and he has the leaping ability to give him a large catch radius.

Speed: Hamilton is a track athlete so he has speed, but I believe he has build-up speed rather than explosive/burner speed. On the field he looks like a 4.48-4.5 40 yard dash guy which is definitely impressive for his size, but it’s not elite. He is a long strider so when he runs vertical routes he can cover some ground and has deceptive deep speed, but he’s not going to be the next Randy Moss by any means.

Quickness: This is one thing I wonder about with Hamilton, his quickness is inconsistent. This is evident in his route running and also when he’s changing direction. I don’t think he has a lot of burst which makes him a less explosive athlete than you might expect. He flashes this coming off the line of scrimmage or after he makes a reception, but it is very inconsistent.

Release: This is one of Hamilton’s inconsistencies. He looks like he is moving at one speed at all times and isn’t a sudden athlete that will accelerate quickly and blow by you. He FLASHES (can’t emphasize that word enough) the ability to get off the line of scrimmage with some explosiveness and that can get him a step on the corner when he is running a vertical route, but he doesn’t have an abundance of acceleration to go from 0-60 as quick as true burners. He hasn’t dealt with an abundance of jams at the line of scrimmage, but he is big and strong enough to fight them off and work either an inside or outside release. He could certainly improve in all aspects of his release though, because he flashes some burst off the ball but it is not often there, and most college receivers need work beating jams at the LOS.

Route Running: This is one of the more frustrating aspects of Hamilton’s game. His route tree is very underdeveloped at this point, and the majority of his routes are vertical or “9” routes which don’t demand anything beyond running in a straight line and looking for the ball. The other routes they will have him run are crossing routes or drags and curl routes. Teams respect his ability to threaten them deep, so at times they will give him significant cushion and that enables him to create separation when he runs a curl route, but it isn’t necessarily because he runs good routes. He rarely, if ever, sinks his hips when he is running routes and rounds off his breaks when he is running a deep in or a post. It was almost sad watching him try to separate from Alabama’s corners because without crisp route running and burst in and out of your breaks you aren’t going to get them out of position. They were always in his hip pocket and if not for a fantastic touchdown reception he made over Dre Kirkpatrick on a 50/50 ball he would have been held without a reception for the entire game. That is a credit to Alabama’s defense but also to Hamilton’s struggles with creating separation with his route running. Arkansas’ offense under Bobby Petrino used a lot of crossing routes, 4 and 5 wide receiver sets and other route designs to help his receivers get open. I’m afraid Hamilton hasn’t had to improve his route running for this reason, and that means he will likely be one of those receivers who doesn’t break out until his 3rd season once he has worked on his route running.

Hands: Hamilton has good hands, it is rare to see a ball hit him in the hands and fall to the ground. Only on the toughest possible catches did I ever see the ball hit him in the hands and not come down with it for a reception. Hamilton is going to need to be a Larry Fitzgerald type in the NFL, running great routes to create separation and being able to win jump balls and make difficult catches in traffic. I tend to call difficult 50/50 ball receptions “Fitzgerald catches” because they are plays that Fitzgerald would make, and Hamilton flashed the leaping ability to high point jump balls and come down with them. He isn’t on Fitzgerald’s level, but he has the ability to make those catches, just not as consistently as you would expect from a true #1 like Fitzgerald. That is why I believe Hamilton will be a reliable #2 in the NFL once he can improve his route running. But Hamilton shows the ability to make the catch, secure it and then run with the ball, and I haven’t seen him have any “concentration drops” which is very encouraging. He has also shown that he can make catches that are behind him and does a good job catching the ball with his hands away from his body. That really improves his catch radius.

Body Control: Hamilton’s body control is difficult to describe. He has the ability to go up, high point a pass and come down with his feet in bounds, but there are times where he just allows his momentum to take him out of bounds. He doesn’t sink his hips when he runs routes either, though I think that his route running can be improved if he wants to improve it. He can be a little shifty and make guys miss at times, but overall his body control is difficult to describe. I would give him an above average grade for this, but Hamilton has proven to be a bit of a tricky player to evaluate.

In Traffic: As I mentioned previously, I like that Hamilton has shown the ability to make “Fitzgerald catches” but he certainly doesn’t come down with every difficult 50/50 ball. He has shown the ability to make a catch, secure it and sustain a hit immediately and not drop the ball. That’s good to see, however I think he could stand to improve his ball security because he doesn’t cover the ball up once contact is initiated and this led to a strip from behind against Texas A&M when a defender punched the ball out from behind.

YAC: Hamilton is sneakily good at creating yards after the catch. I can hardly believe how often he picks up additional yardage given how I have described how his route running leaves plenty to be desired and that he is not an overly explosive athlete. However, particularly on curl routes, he does a very good job of catching the ball with his hands, securing it and turning upfield to the opposite shoulder that the defender is attacking. Then, thanks to his size and strength, the out of position tackler will slide off of him and he will pick up additional yardage. He has a good feel for running with the ball and uses his blockers well when he’s in the open field and like I said earlier he has a bit of shiftiness to him to help get defenders out of position to make a tackle. And when he catches the ball on a crossing route and he’s already picked up some speed he can outrun some defenders that might not take good angles and pick up more yardage. He’s not an elite after catch player, but he is definitely better at generating yards after the catch than I expected him to be.

Blocking: It’s been difficult to evaluate Hamilton’s blocking both because of camera angles and also because of the depth Arkansas had at receiver last year. Hamilton certainly wasn’t on the field every snap on offense, and thus it made it more difficult to evaluate his blocking. I wouldn’t give him much more than an average grade in this area right now, but he will engage the defender and wall them off for a couple seconds. He’s willing to block downfield as well, but isn’t a dominant blocker by any means.

Overall: Hamilton was a fairly confusing player to evaluate for me. He has NFL size, NFL speed, NFL hands and a surprisingly good ability to generate yards after the catch, but his route running, quickness and release left plenty to be desired. He needs to work on his route running first and foremost if he wants to take the next step as a receiver, because right now he is essentially just getting open thanks to Arkansas’ offensive concepts, not because he is running crisp routes. He’s got NFL hands and they are one of his strengths, but I want to see him attack the ball every time he has the opportunity to. He did this at times, but other times he would wait for the ball to come down to him allowing a defender to make a play on it. That may just be a mentality that some receivers have and others don’t, but Hamilton has shown that he will do it so I’d like to see him do it even more. Hamilton looks like a reliable #2 in the NFL to me. He’s not strictly a possession guy because he has deceptive deep speed thanks to his long strides, but he also doesn’t run good enough routes to be the go-to guy on 3rd down when you need a conversion. However, his ability to stretch defenses vertically, his reliable hands and good feel for getting yards after the reception make him an appealing complementary target. I don’t think he will ever be a go-to guy, but his combination of size, hands and speed will make him an attractive #2 in the NFL.

Projection: 2nd-3rd round: Hamilton isn’t a 1st round receiver right now, but I think he has the potential to go in the top 75. 6’3” receivers with impressive hands and the ability to stretch defenses vertically don’t exactly grow on trees, but Hamilton has technique work to do particularly as a route runner. I don’t think Hamilton is going to be as NFL ready as some recent receiver prospects have been, and may need a year or two of NFL coaching before he is truly ready to be a starter. Keep in mind he has been buried on a talent-laden Arkansas’ depth chart his entire career there up to this point, and we really don’t have a good feel for how he will do as one of the go-to guys on a game to game basis. He’s got a great opportunity to improve his statistics and also his NFL prospects now that he should be Arkansas’ #1 receiver, but I’ll need to see improved route running and explosiveness to change my mind about him being a #2 receiver in the NFL, not a true #1.

Barkley was once considered the favorite to be the #1 overall pick, but after extensive study I don’t see any way that will happen.

Size: Barkley is listed at 6’2”, 220 pounds but that is probably a little generous. He is probably closer to 6’1” if I had to guess. While he certainly isn’t skinny, Barkley won’t be mistaken by anyone for a quarterback with elite size.

Arm Strength: Barkley’s arm strength is something plenty of talent evaluators are going to disagree on. He clearly doesn’t have “elite” arm strength, and I would even hesitate to describe his arm strength as “good”. If I had to put a label on it I would call his arm strength “above-average.” He has enough arm strength to play in the NFL, but he can’t make every throw with appropriate velocity, especially on throws outside the numbers. He struggles to make throws from the opposite hash to the far sideline as his passes tend to have a little air under them, which will allow NFL caliber corners and safeties to make plays on those passes. Lane Kiffin and USC clearly realize Barkley’s arm strength is not what makes him a good or great quarterback, and use plenty of short passes, bootlegs and screens to highlight Barkley’s abilities. His arm strength translates much better on throws down the middle as his velocity is better. He can make intermediate throws 15-20 yards downfield down the middle, and can put enough velocity on 10 yard curls to complete them at the next level. He can throw the deep ball as well, though his passes have plenty of air under them. He often only connects on deep passes when he quickly reads single coverage for either Robert Woods or Marqise Lee and throws the deep ball with plenty of air under it so they can run under it. What is troubling is that even though he doesn’t have good or great arm strength he doesn’t consistently throw deep passes in stride; some will be accurate, in stride catches, but plenty are either overthrown by a couple yards or underthrown, requiring the receiver to make a difficult adjustment to catch the ball. Luckily for Barkley, Woods and Lee are two of the best in the country at making these adjustments, so his deep ball statistics may be deceiving. It was also interesting to evaluate Barkley in a collapsing pocket or with defenders bearing down on him. He doesn’t have the arm strength to make intermediate throws off of his back foot with quality velocity, and doesn’t spin the ball as cleanly off of his back foot. However, he flashes enough accuracy to make a NFL throw if the player is wide open in the intermediate range where his lack of arm strength wouldn’t be a significant problem. Barkley’s arm strength may not be elite, but he may have just enough to be a NFL starter. However, he is somewhat reliant on a clean pocket to succeed, as he doesn’t have the arm to get quality velocity without stepping into his throws. Unfortunately, his overall his arm strength will limit what his NFL offensive coordinator will be able to do schematically.

Accuracy: Barkley’s accuracy is definitely one of his strengths, but I don’t think it is elite or great either. His accuracy on short and intermediate routes is consistent, but like any quarterback he has his misses. He consistently throws passes in stride and to the correct shoulder of the receiver, which allows Woods and Lee to take advantage of yards after catch opportunities. He also has pretty good accuracy when throwing off his back foot in the face of pressure. However, his ball placement isn’t elite, it just looks like it sometimes because his receivers both catch the ball so well outside of their frames. His ball placement on deep passes and fade routes leaves something to be desired. His deep passes are routinely either underthrown or overthrown, leaving his receivers attempting difficult adjustments on short throws and diving (often unsuccessfully) to get a hand on overthrows. Obviously deep passes are the most difficult to complete, but I worry about how often he will be able to complete these passes at the next level if he is struggling to complete them with two clearly NFL caliber receivers at USC.

Mechanics: Barkley’s mechanics are another one of his strengths. I wouldn’t call them elite, but they are certainly very good. He has a quick, efficient release with little wasted movement that allows him to get the ball out quickly in the face of pressure. His release point isn’t elite due to his size, but he has an over the top release that projects well to the NFL. Barkley’s footwork has improved significantly since he has been at USC, and at this point I would say he has very good footwork. He flashes very impressive footwork in the pocket side-stepping the rush, climbing the pocket, and buying time without leaving the pocket. However, at times he will throw off his back foot unnecessarily, which negatively impacts his pass velocity and how cleanly he spins the ball. He has plenty of experience under center and in shotgun, and his footwork on his drop-backs are quick and clean. His mechanics are well polished, which is to be expected considering he is a 4th year senior who is returning for his 4th full year as the starting quarterback for USC.

Athleticism: Barkley doesn’t have game-breaking athleticism but he is certainly athletic enough to avoid pressure in the pocket, scramble outside to buy more time, and pick up yardage if the defense takes away his passing options and there is some open field in front of him. He won’t be making highlight reel runs, but he isn’t a poor athlete by any means.

Pre/Post-Snap Reads: Pre-snap reads are one of Barkley’s strengths. He has a lot of experience as a starting quarterback so he has obviously seen a lot of different blitz packages, coverages, and defensive alignments, both pre and post snap. He frequently makes adjustments at the line of scrimmage and has good enough awareness to make a quick throw when corners are playing with big cushion even if he has a run play called. Barkley’s anticipation also may be his most elite characteristic as he frequently throws receivers open by releasing the ball as they are making their breaks. He might be the best in the country when it comes to making throws with that kind of anticipation. However, despite his great anticipation, I’m not convinced that he is elite when going through his progressions and reading the defense. Too many times he throws passes against quality 1 on 1 or double coverage for me to be convinced of that. He doesn’t panic under pressure which is good, and he certainly has shown that he will scan the field from left to right and vice versa when given the opportunity to do so, but he also has a tendency to lock onto Woods or Lee at times. That allows defenders to key on those throws and make plays on the ball. So while I love his pre-snap reads and his anticipation I still have some issues with his post-snap reads due to forced throws into coverage as well as his habit of locking onto his primary receiver a little too often. And while I realize this often has to do with play design, there are way too many times Barkley locks on to a receiver in the flat or a running back on a swing pass and doesn’t even scan the field, tosses an easy throw to them, and either gets free yardage or a tackle for loss. They aren’t NFL throws, aren’t even close to NFL reads, and they don’t translate to the NFL at all. I don’t know why the play design would require him to throw to the flat as his primary read, but if that’s the play design then his offense isn’t preparing him as well for the NFL as many might assume.

Decision Making: Barkley’s decision making has certainly improved a lot since his freshman year, but it still has room for improvement in my opinion. He still forces throws against good coverage when he should look elsewhere or check down too much for my liking. Not only that, at times he makes throws that he can get away with in college but in the NFL they could easily be incompletions or interceptions. Even some big downfield plays that he got were a result of his receivers bailing him out with great plays on underthrown passes. Every quarterback needs that at times, so I realize I am being a little harsh, but it is more of a pattern with Barkley than you would like from a franchise caliber quarterback and potential top 5 pick. His interceptions also dropped this year as he set a career high for touchdowns, so I realize I am getting picky here, but he is not an elite decision maker yet despite his very impressive statistics last year.

Intangibles: Barkley has impressive intangibles without a doubt. He was named a captain of USC’s football team as a sophomore, the first time that has ever happened as far as I know, and he was USC’s starting quarterback as a freshman, another first for the prestigious program. He is clearly the leader of the team and he showed a lot of leadership by coming back for his senior year to try to lead his team to a BCS Bowl Game and potentially a National Championship. He has also matured enough to not let interceptions noticeably rattle him, and he has shown that he can bounce back from turnovers and still make good throws. Additionally, there may not be a quarterback in the country who does a better job keeping defenses off balance with his cadence before the snap. Without fail Barkley gets defenders to either jump offsides or jump and recover, multiple times a game. That is a sign of his veteran experience as well as his football IQ. However, I don’t think Barkley is a “franchise” quarterback. I don’t think he elevates the play of the players around him, I think his performance has a lot to do with the talent around him. While he has improved both as a leader and as a player over the past three years, the caliber of players around him on offense was very impressive this year (save for a couple spots on the offensive line) and he had his best season. I’m not implying he is simply a product of his supporting cast, but it certainly has an impact. Barkley also has a pretty impressive football IQ, though I’m not ready to call it elite due to some of the issues I have mentioned previously.

Character: Barkley is a very good football player as well as a very good person, and is well known for his charity work off the field. He’s an easy kid to root for on the field and off of it, and you love to see that.

Overall: I have been a Matt Barkley fan since he walked onto campus at USC and began competing for the starting job. He may not have elite size or arm strength, but he’s a quality player and a quality person. Unfortunately, I don’t love him as much as a NFL prospect as I had previously expected, and I don’t see any way he will end up being the #1 overall pick come next April. Even with a terrific senior season he won’t improve his stock significantly unless he shows improved decision making, better accuracy on deep passes, and better production when throwing from a collapsing pocket and off of his back foot when under pressure. That may not sound fair, but NFL teams don’t make draft picks based on fairness. He is a very polished player, which is certainly a positive, but the downside is he doesn’t have a lot of mystery to his game and what you see is more than likely what you are going to get at the next level, even if he continues to improve a bit as a senior. His arm strength isn’t going to go from above-average to great between now and the draft, his accuracy isn’t likely to go from good to elite by April, and he probably won’t grow a couple inches to alleviate concerns about his height in the next 10 months. He’s a good college quarterback, but I don’t think he will ever be much more than a solid NFL starter due to his arm strength limitations. His accuracy and anticipation will give him a chance to start at the next level, but he is not a franchise quarterback and should not be a top 5 or 10 pick in my opinion.

Projection: Late 1st, Early 2nd. It doesn’t feel right to put him this low, but right now I can’t say he’s a top 10 pick. I just don’t think he has the raw talent to be a great NFL starter, and may have a similar career arc to Mark Sanchez. He has a better football IQ, and I don’t think players will have issues following him like some of his teammates seem to be having with Sanchez, but I think he will need a strong run game and defense to go deep into the playoffs much like Sanchez has.
Thanks for reading! I’ll have scouting reports up on Robert Woods, Khaled Holmes and Curtis McNeal shortly.

–Tom