COLUMBUS, Ohio — When it comes to Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, there always have been questions about whether his college production would translate to the NFL. Now he at least knows where he’ll start his NFL career.
Barrett is headed to the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent, according to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer.
Barrett rewrote Ohio State’s record book over the last four years, but his NFL draft stock is tenuous enough that the debate heading into this week surrounded whether he would be drafted instead of when he’d be drafted. That argument even made its way to post-college showcase games. Barrett was passed over for the Senior Bowl and instead played in the East-West Shrine Game.
When asked why Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee got the final invitation to the Senior Bowl over Barrett, Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage implied to Land of 10 that Barrett was better suited for college than the professional ranks.
“He’s been an unbelievably productive college quarterback, but there is a difference between being a college player and an NFL prospect,” Savage said. “He was on our list but never quite made it over the hurdle to get an invite. I think the world of J.T. in terms of what he’s achieved at Ohio State. You don’t do what he did in Columbus by accident.”
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. appears to be of a similar mind. In February, he told reporters that he didn’t think it was likely that Barrett will hear his name called.
“I think he’s a developmental guy,” Kiper said. “His passing skills, accuracy and decision making, that’s the big question mark. I’d probably look at him more as an undrafted free agent.”
One of the draft’s other star analysts came in on the other side of that debate, though. Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said in a conference call that he thinks Barrett will end up a late-round selection and go on to a promising pro career.
“J.T. Barrett is a hard one for me because I love the kid,” Mayock said. “I got to meet him a little bit at the East-West game. You can see the leadership attributes. Everything you want in the quarterback he has, except for the high-level talent. So from my perspective, he’s probably going to be a later third-day guy, and somebody’s going to buy into him because they love the kid and what he brings to the table in the meeting room and try to give him a chance to develop over time. He’s an ideal backup or third quarterback, and I think he’ll play in the league for a lot of years.”
As Mayock noted, the odds of Barrett hearing his name called on Saturday will come down to whether at least one team believes he’s not tailored only for the college game. In the days leading up to the NFL draft, seven-round mock drafts from CBS Sports, NFL.com and Pro Football Focus did not include Barrett. However, Land of 10’s seven-round mock draft had Barrett going to the Dallas Cowboys with the No. 192 overall pick.
As expected, Barrett spent the buildup to the draft tuning out any outside thoughts about his professional viability. After saying as much at the NFL combine and Ohio State’s pro day, he repeated it one final time after working out with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I don’t know if I’m out to prove anything or change people’s minds,” he said. “What’s out there on me as far as tape and things like that, that’s who I am. I’m still striving to develop and get better. I don’t think I’m a finished product yet. I’m going to go out there and continue to work hard and continue to get better.”