Finally, the wait is over for USC quarterback Matt Barkley.
After falling like a stone through the first three rounds, the Eagles traded up to the first pick of the fourth round yesterday to take Barkley. It was a stunning fall for the quarterback, who declined a chance to come out early last year and paid dearly for that decision.
Had he declared himself eligible as an underclassman for the 2012 draft, Barkley likely would have been a top 10 pick. Instead, he barely made the top 100; the Eagles took Barkley with the 98th pick after trading their fourth-round pick and a seventh-rounder to move up to Jacksonville's top spot in the fourth.
The knock against Barkley: a weak throwing arm that was compounded by a shoulder injury from last season.
Barkley now joins Eagles coach Chip Kelly, the former Oregon quarterback who coached against Barkley in the Pac 12. It's an interesting choice for Kelly, who is known to like mobile quarterbacks to run his up-tempo offense. But Barkley is strictly a pocket passer, just like Eagles incumbent Nick Foles. The Eagles also have the more mobile Michael Vick, who is thought to be perfectly suited for Kelly's offense.
NFC "Worst" no more
It wasn't all that long ago that the NFC West was one of the league's worst divisions. Remember when the Seahawks won the division in 2010, becoming the first team in NFL history to qualify for the playoffs with a losing record?
Well, things have changed for the better in a hurry -- to the point where this just might be the most intriguing division in the league. The teams' moves in the draft made things only more interesting.
The Rams pulled off a blockbuster first-round trade up with the Bills to take West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin, one of the top playmakers in the draft. The Rams also took Austin's West Virginia teammate -- wide receiver Stedman Bailey -- in the third round, finally giving quarterback Sam Bradford some viable receiving targets.
The 49ers moved up in the first round to get LSU safety Eric Reid, who replaces Pro Bowler Dashon Goldson.
The Cardinals, who upgraded at quarterback by trading for Carson Palmer, took highly touted North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper in the first round and selected ball-hawking defensive back Tyrann Mathieu in the third round. A risk taking Mathieu, who failed multiple drug tests at LSU? Absolutely. But if Mathieu overcomes his off-field problems, he'll be a major upgrade on a defense that has to contend with the high-powered attacks of San Francisco and Seattle.
The Seahawks loaded up even before the draft by trading their first-round pick for wide receiver Percy Harvin and signing defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett and cornerback Antoine Winfield in free agency.
Running backs out of style
This year's draft continued a growing trend at running back: Teams simply don't value runners like in the past.
Case in point: For the first time since 1963, no running back was taken in the first round. And the runner most thought was the top prospect in this year's draft -- Alabama's Eddie Lacy -- didn't go until late in the second round to the Packers. The first running back taken was Giovani Bernard of North Carolina, who went to the Bengals with the fifth pick of the second round (37th overall).
In the previous three years, only seven backs were taken in the first round, more evidence that the NFL has become more of a passing league than ever.
- Thought the Vikings got desperate by trading back into the first round to take Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson at 29th overall. They gave up second, third, fourth and seventh-round picks to the Patriots for Patterson, a junior-college transfer who played just one season at Tennessee before declaring for the draft. Tavon Austin was their first choice, but he was gone at No. 8 overall after St. Louis moved up with the Bills.
- The Browns hope first-round pass rusher Barkevious Mingo develops into a big-time player, but some scouts worry he's too lean and will be outmuscled by bigger, stronger offensive linemen. One scout brought up former Bills bust Aaron Maybin as a comparison. Eek!
- Can't remember a team that has improved as much in one offseason -- at least on paper -- as the Chiefs. After a 2-14 season, they get Andy Reid as coach, trade for quarterback Alex Smith, re-sign wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, and go on a free-agency spending binge, signing cornerbacks Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith, wide receiver Donnie Avery, tight end Anthony Fasano and taking Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher with the No. 1 overall pick. This team will be in the playoff mix.