Southern Cal quarterback Matt Barkley was the hottest player going into the 2012 college football season, and Alabama tailback Eddie Lacy was the hottest player at season's end.
The two slid out of Thursday night's first round of the NFL draft and continued to slide Friday. Lacy was finally plucked by the Green Bay Packers with the next-to-last pick of the second round, while Barkley's plummet continued all the way through the third round, leaving him still awaiting a phone call as the draft resumes with the fourth round today at noon.
"I'm not the biggest Matt Barkley fan, but this is highly surprising," draft analyst Todd McShay said on the ESPN telecast. "He's limited and his arm strength is average at best, but he's great in other areas. To see him fall this far is shocking."
Barkley guided the Trojans to a 10-2 record in 2011 and was the Heisman Trophy favorite last summer, but his completion percentage dipped and his interceptions doubled his senior year. Southern Cal was a disaster defensively and finished 7-6, setting a record for the most losses for a preseason No. 1 team.
Only three quarterbacks have been taken through the first three rounds, with Florida State's EJ Manuel going to Buffalo in the first round, West Virginia's Geno Smith going to the New York Jets in the second and North Carolina State's Mike Glennon going to Tampa Bay in the third.
Lacy was the MVP of last season's SEC and BCS championship games, combining for 321 rushing yards in wins over Georgia and Notre Dame. Packers director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst admitted his surprise at Lacy slipping to the 61st overall selection, and he was asked in a news conference if Lacy's productivity was more about the Crimson Tide's stacked offensive line.
"They did have a very, very good offensive line at Alabama, but he averaged more than 6 yards a carry in the SEC throughout his career," Gutekunst said. "He's a good back, and we're really excited to have him. He's going to be part of a big group we already have, but he'll give us a little size we haven't had in a while."
Lacy had been projected as the top player at his position in this year's draft, which wound up not having a running back taken in the first round for the first time since 1963. In the second round Friday, North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard went to Cincinnati as the 37th pick, Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell went to Pittsburgh at 48 and Wisconsin's Montee Ball went to Denver at 58.
Alabama made draft history Thursday by becoming the first college to produce three consecutive picks in the first round. Lacy was the only Crimson Tide player taken Friday.
After producing two first-round picks with linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, Georgia added two third-round choices when noseguard John Jenkins went 82nd overall to New Orleans and Shawn Williams went 84th to Cincinnati. Williams is the fifth Bulldogs player taken by the Bengals in the past four years, joining defensive tackle Geno Atkins in 2010, receiver A.J. Green and guard Clint Boling in 2011 and tight end Orson Charles last year.
The SEC followed its all-time high of 12 first-round selections with seven in the second round and 11 in the third. Among the league's third-round picks was former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who went 69th overall to Arizona.
Mathieu was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011 but was dismissed from the team last August following multiple failed drug tests.
"Seven months ago, I didn't think I would be in this situation," an emotional Mathieu said on ESPN. "I had everything taken away from me."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.