It has finally happened: J.T. Barrett has NFL interest from not one, but two teams. The three-time Ohio State captain will join the Indianapolis Colts AND the New Orleans Saints for a minicamp tryout.
So, why should you be excited about Barrett? We’ve got you covered:
1. He’s not really a rookie
Okay that might be a stretch, but Barrett is one of the most experienced players in this year’s draft class, and his maturity, at least, will certainly not be a question heading into camp.
Barrett started for Ohio State as a redshirt freshman through his senior season, only sitting out for a few games during the stretch. While his opening performances against Navy and Virginia Tech weren’t great, he certainly didn’t look like a freshman by the time the Buckeyes faced Michigan in November of 2014, already having broken a Big Ten record with 45 touchdowns in his premiere season. However, Barrett’s impact went beyond his time on the field in Columbus.
Former Ohio State tight end Nick Vannett described Barrett as a “true field general.” A born leader, Barrett is the only three-time captain in Ohio State history, serving in the role even during the few games that Cardale Jones started over him in 2015. Perhaps it’s the fact that both of Barrett’s parents, Stacy and Joe, served in the Army, but Barrett’s leadership skills are perhaps his most valuable asset.
2. Pressure means nothing
Some players panic when their teams start to struggle. That’s not Barrett. In fact, he seems to get better as the going gets tough, which is crucial for players transitioning to the highest level of competition in football.
For proof, look to his performances against Penn State in 2014 and 2017--two very different games which both exhibit the kind of resilience that made Barrett a great college quarterback.
In 2014, the Buckeyes blew a 17-0 lead to James Franklin’s Nittany Lions, starting with a pick-six thrown by Barrett himself. But Barrett stayed calm, scoring two touchdowns in two overtime periods to secure the victory for Ohio State.
The 2017 story was more heroic, as Barrett pulled his team out of a deficit which stretched as large as 18 points. The senior went 33-of-39 for 328 passing yards and four touchdowns. His fourth quarter was perfect, capping the comeback for the Buckeyes as he completed 13-of-13 passing attempts, including three touchdowns.
The matchup of top-five teams and the daunting task of coming back from a deficit did not faze the senior. Urban Meyer said of Barrett’s performance “I’ve never had a kid play perfect, but damn he was close tonight.”
3. What doesn’t kill him makes him stronger
In what would seemingly be a huge point against him, Barrett has actually been injured a lot--from an ACL tear to a broken ankle to a meniscus issue exacerbated by a rogue cameraman. However, Barrett has managed to come back stronger than ever after each injury, no matter how serious. Despite tearing his ACL and meniscus as a senior in high school, Barrett ended up enrolling early at Ohio State and studied under Braxton Miller before taking over the starting role in August 2014.
The broken ankle against Michigan in 2014 proved more cost-worthy for Barrett personally, as it eventually led to Cardale Jones taking the Buckeyes through the post-season to a College Football Playoff title and winning the starting spot the following fall. Still, Barrett’s mobility didn’t seem to be affected once he did return to the field. He still rushed for 11 touchdowns in 2015, equaling his total from 2014, and averaged 5.9 yards per rushing attempt--the best average of his four seasons. Then there was the meniscus. In short, Barrett had surgery and was back on the field a week later to face Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game. “Machine” is a word you might insert here.
4. He is versatile
Coming out of high school, Barrett was considered the No. 2 dual threat quarterback recruit in the nation. He continued to show that ability in four seasons with the Buckeyes. As a result, he is first in program history in both career passing yards (9,434) and touchdowns (104), fourth in career rushing touchdowns (43) and seventh in career rushing yards (3,263).
While this sort of versatility generally gets stomped out pretty quickly in the NFL, where high-caliber defenses snuff out even better-than-mediocre scramblers, some quarterbacks have been able to continue to rely on their rushing game. Russell Wilson looks like an easy comparison, but Barrett looks in many ways like Alex Smith--who also happened to be coached by Urban Meyer at Utah. Smith is similar in his scrambling ability (both Smith and Barrett actually ran 4.7-second 40s), and scouts had analogous concerns about Smith playing in the spread throughout college.
If Barrett can continue to evade defenders at the NFL level, he could prove to be the next in line of a rare breed of true dual threat NFL quarterbacks.
5. Despite the haters, he still gets the job done
Meyer owns the best winning percentage of any Ohio State coach in program history, sitting at 73-8 overall. In four of his six seasons, he has had Barrett at the helm of his offense for most of the year. Throughout those years, the Buckeyes went 44-6 in games where Barrett played.
Yes, the quarterback had the advantage of a ridiculous amount of NFL-level talent surrounding him on offense (e.g., Ezekiel Elliott and the entire set of offensive lines for several years) and a defense which, at a minimum, kept Ohio State in most games. However, there is something to be said for a player who simply knows how to win and who can make the players around him better. It’s sometimes ugly, but when Barrett takes the field, his team more often than not comes out on top.
Any concerns about Barrett?
Realistically? Plenty. Barrett is not a pro-style quarterback in a league which still favors that type of player. Having played primarily in the spread, he hasn’t been forced to rely on downfield passing options, and has struggled when put in that type of situation (i.e. all of 2017 under Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day). Accuracy, especially on the long ball, has been a consistent problem throughout his time in Columbus.
He has been critiqued for his fundamentals, and his arm strength is questionable. He is also small for the NFL, standing at 6-foot-1, 224 pounds, which could hamper his ability to rush in an NFL loaded with bigger and stronger defensive players.