"Those guys changed expectations for many quarterbacks, let alone rookies," Smith said. "They set the bar very high. I want to be one of those guys that steps in and does the same thing."
Much depends on where he goes. There is no shortage of teams that need a quarterback, including the Kansas City Chiefs with the No. 1 pick. The free-agent class is weak, assuming Joe Flacco stays in Baltimore. The trade market will include San Francisco's Alex Smith and Seattle's Matt Flynn, but there is more demand than supply.
Chiefs general manager John Dorsey, who previously told the Kansas City Star that there is no quarterback who is "definitely" a first-round pick, said Friday that the team's evaluations are not yet complete.
History indicates that quarterback ratings tend to rise this time of year, especially when coaches get involved and begin to talk themselves into prospects.
Barkley is among the prospects whose draft volatility is the most intriguing. He appeared a likely top-10 pick last season before deciding to return to USC. Then the Trojans' season went awry, Barkley did not play as well as 2011, and he is no longer considered that type of prospect.
Barkley said Friday he has "no regrets" about returning to college, but he must make up for lost time. A separated shoulder will keep him from throwing at the combine, but he will throw next month at USC's pro day.
"It seems right now that I'm kind of working my way up as opposed to already being on the top, which is a position . . . I've been in both cases before," Barkley said. "There's always something to prove, and I'm out to prove something."
Barkley's and Smith's profiles are more like pocket passers than dual-threat quarterbacks. Barkley cited Flacco's leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl as evidence that pocket passers are still vital in the NFL despite more teams trending to mobile threats.
The best dual-threat option is Manuel, whom Chip Kelly once tried to lure to Oregon. Manuel would seem the best fit for the Eagles after the first round if they want to draft a quarterback who can run Kelly's system.
"Whatever team I go to, I think the coaches will understand the skill-set that I have," Manuel said. "And I think they'll cater to whatever I do best. I think RGIII and [Colin] Kaepernick and Russell Wilson had more success early on because the offense was catered to what they do."