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Norman, Okla. • Matt Barkley stayed in school. Landry Jones stuck around, too.

When the NFL Draft kicks off Thursday night, the question of whether they made a mistake will be answered. Some of college football's highest-profile quarterbacks will find out if an extra year in school cost them millions of dollars.

If Barkley, Jones and Arkansas' Tyler Wilson drop far, it goes against the NFL's conventional wisdom that another year in school is almost always a good idea.

"Staying in school has never hurt anybody because it makes them much better players, and especially the quarterbacks," said NFL Draft consultant Gil Brandt, a former general manager of the Dallas Cowboys.

The latest standout quarterback at Southern California, Barkley was considered in the same class as Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the top two picks in last year's draft who went on to sensational rookie seasons and playoff appearances. He returned to USC with national championship expectations and the preseason No. 1 ranking, but the Trojans went bust with a 7-6 record. And Barkley got hurt.

Jones, who flashed tremendous potential soon after replacing No. 1 pick Sam Bradford at Oklahoma, never solidified himself as a top-of-the-draft quarterback. Wilson struggled through a disappointing final year with the Razorbacks as coach Bobby Petrino's messy exit preceded a 4-8 season.

Even in these cases, Brandt isn't convinced damage was done by the trio of seniors.

"They stayed. Did it make them better players? I think it did," Brandt argued. "Did it get them drafted higher? I think they probably got drafted about the same as they would have had they not stayed in school."

We'll see later this week.

None of them has fallen off the draft board entirely, but instead it's Geno Smith from West Virginia and E.J. Manuel from Florida State who will be attending opening night at Radio City Music Hall. Syracuse's Ryan Nassib has also surged toward the top of some analysts' rankings of top QBs.

Brandt said he never considered Jones anything higher than a second- or third-round pick after the 2011 season, and he doesn't think Wilson was seen as a franchise quarterback at the time, either. To him, the big anomaly is Barkley.

"With Matt Barkley, I guess we were all wrong because we all — myself included — thought that he was going to be the first pick in the draft and the team was going to win a national championship," Brandt said.

Barkley ended up spraining his right shoulder when he was leveled in a late-season game against UCLA. He has said, including at the NFL combine, that he doesn't have regrets and thinks the chance to be a leader through adversity benefited him — even if his interceptions doubled and his completion percentage dipped.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock is still a believer that most players are better off returning to college.

"If you get a first-round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee, you probably should go. If you can't help yourself in any way, shape or form, you should probably go. If you're a running back, you might go," Mayock said. "But for the most part, you ought to listen and see if you can improve your draft stock by staying another year." —

NFL Draft

P Thursday, 6 p.m.

TV • NFL Network

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