(WGR Sports Radio 550) -- It's almost impossible for NFL teams and players to go year in, year out without some sort of event to test their mettle and allow the franchise to see what they're all about.
As the 2013 NFL Draft approaches, at least two players that play the game's most important position are using the adversity angle to what they hope will be their advantage. USC's Matt Barkley and Tyler Wilson have different journeys and a different set of circumstances which led to their less-than-stellar senior seasons.
If Barkley and Wilson had each declared for the 2012 NFL Draft, there is a possibility that they would have parlayed a significant junior season in to being a first round pick. Instead, both felt they had a team worthy of National Championship consideration and returned to their respective schools.
"No regret that I came back last year," said Barkley. "Haven't looked back once, and I wouldn't change my USC career for anything."
"I think that year gave me that opportunity that I wouldn't have necessarily been if I came out early," Wilson remarked. There's a lot of things that I didn't understand about how the process works, and you're kind of jumping in to it with cold feet. I have that opportunity by coming back, and I think I'm more prepared because of it."
In Barkley's case, it's never really been easy since taking over for a Trojan team as a true freshman. He's had to deal with a coaching change, locker room adversity, NCAA sanctions and the ever-so-weighty expectations of a Los Angeles market void of an NFL team.
Wilson on the other hand never had to go through sanctions, but he was the starting quarterback of a team that saw their head coach fired amidst scandal just weeks ahead of the 2012 season. Arkansas never recovered, falling from the grace of a once top-five team and national prominence, to a 4-8 record and yet another coaching search.
Regardless of their respective journeys, both 2013 NFL Draft hopefuls are using a similar buzz word to fight for their cause: adversity.
"I learned a lot from this last year that you can't teach in a classroom, that you have to learn through experience in regards to handling adversity at it's peak," Barkley said. "I think what I've had to endure at USC has been unique. It's not a traditional quarterback experience in college, with all the ups and downs, with coaches leaving, with the NCAA sanctions and what we've had to deal with, keeping that team together. I think I possess leadership that's pretty unique…"
"When the dumpster is turned upside down so to speak, it's how you respond to it," Wilson said. "I felt it was my responsibility along with a lot of those senior guys to keep that program together. There was a two or three week period there where we didn't have a head coach. There could have been a lot of controversy as far as guys transferring, but we kept it together. We had a great spring. You learn a lot about team chemistry, yourself and all that, and I think that's a tremendous positive. You have a great deal of pressure, and you put a lot on your shoulders at that time."
A senior season that provided a drop-off for both players has left their respective draft stocks to be plagued by an overwhelming ambiguity. Some are questioning Barkley's overall arm strength, while others look at Wilson's 83/4" hands as a negative in terms of being able to prove his arm strength as well.
Each responded to their detractors at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. First was Barkley, when asked about his perceived lack of an arm.
"I would disagree," Barkley said with a smile. "Look at the tape, watch the tape. I'm not gonna go through certain throws, but you can watch the tape where I've made throws in tight windows that I can make every NFL throw that you need. So, yeah, I would disagree."
"I don't know how much stock they put in to [small hands]," Wilson said after a deep breath. "I know I can throw the ball as good or better than some people with bigger hands than I do. Not that that means anything I guess. At the end of the day, I guess this part of it is a modeling session where you have to be this and this. But at the end of the day, can the guy play football. That's the way I've always looked at it."
The common link between both of them? Both were on the radar of the Buffalo Bills at this year's Combine in Indianapolis.
According to SI's Peter King, the Bills were one of nine teams that formally met with Barkley in his time at the combine. The Bills official website reported that Wilson was also set to meet with Buffalo on Friday night, the second time the team has met with the former Arkansas QB.
Speaking on Thursday, Nix addressed some concerns on both of the signal callers that the Bills seemingly want to learn more about. Keeping western New York in mind, the question at hand was in relation to the duo's perceived ability to throw the ball in poor weather conditions.
"To answer your question, I think Barkley can do it, yeah," Nix said before moving on to Wilson. "Tyler Wilson. I've said this before. I was concerned about his arm a little bit during the year. I've told him this. But I think he was banged up and then I saw him at the Senior Bowl, it looked like he had plenty of arm strength."
Many things can change throughout the next two months, but it appears now that Buffalo's eighth pick wouldn't be required to select either of these players. But with Barkley's pro day coming up, a solid performance with a healthy shoulder could intrigue some teams.
These two surely won't be the last quarterbacks that the Bills meet with in the attempt to find their next face of the franchise. Both Barkley and Wilson though are owning up to what happened in their final collegiate seasons, and declaring that they're better for it.
Only time will tell if they're right. One thing is for certain, though. They've certainly got the Bills wondering.