INDIANAPOLIS — J.T. Barrett has proven himself as a capable leader and prolific football player time and time again during his four seasons at Ohio State.
But can Barrett play quarterback in the NFL? That’s the question he hopes to answer this week.
“Obviously, people have their opinion about who fits better in the NFL and that’s fine,” Barrett said Friday at the NFL combine. “I haven’t paid much attention to it, honestly. The one thing I can do is present J.T. Barrett the best I can. The great opportunity I have here to showcase my skills and control what I can control.”
That’s the typical answer players give who are underrated and over-scrutinized. Barrett was the ultimate winner at Ohio State with a school-record 38 victories in 44 starts. Three times he was named the Big Ten’s top quarterback, and he has a Silver Football as the league’s best player.
Along with a 4-0 mark against Michigan, Barrett has 34 Ohio State records and five Big Ten marks. Those league marks include total offensive yards (12,697), touchdown passes (104), touchdowns responsible for (147) and player of the week awards (9).
Pro football is different from college football, however, and Barrett’s accuracy and ball placement are questioned, not his accolades or his leadership skills.
“He’s going to be hard to cut,” said Dan Shonka, national scout and general manager for Ourlads Scouting Services, who helped select players for the annual East-West Shrine Game. “When we had him there at the East-West for a week, I was super impressed with him. Of course, I’m behind the huddle, out on the field and watching things very closely. He really looked good in practice, a lot better in practice throwing the ball than he did obviously in the game.
“Barrett showed really good arm strength, he was very accurate in all the drills. He got in 7-on-7, he did a nice job of throwing the ball. Then he got in the game and he did what he did at Ohio State sometimes and he was inconsistent.”
Barrett’s intangibles, however, shine through in every aspect of football.
“He’s like EF Hutton when he came in the meeting room for the East team,” Shonka said. “Everybody just stopped and listened. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. It was just like, ‘Holy cow, this guy has got a presence about him.’ He’s kind of flat-lined. He doesn’t get really high or too low when he makes a mistake.”
“J.T. Barrett is a hard one for me because I love the kid,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike 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.”
At 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds, Barrett doesn’t have the optimum measurables. He’s quick but not overly fast in running a 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds. Barrett can get the ball to receivers, but he needs quicker decision making and anticipation. Perhaps he can develop those skills with an NFL team over time.
“How much faith do I have in myself? I have some confidence,” Barrett said. “I’m not the type to voice it. I want to showcase it on the field. That’s what I plan to do. I think I did a good job of preparing and being ready for this moment. I have confidence in myself, yes.”
Currently, Barrett projects somewhere similarly to Tyrod Taylor or Case Keenum, quarterbacks who started their careers as late-round picks or free agents who eventually became starters. However, Barrett’s leadership, toughness and all-around skill set compares favorably to Russell Wilson, who was a third-round selection.
“I think teams that carry three quarterbacks, he’s got a chance of being a third and at worst he’s going to be a practice-squad guy for somebody unless he decides to go to Canada because of his intangibles, his intelligence,” Shonka said.
“From my perspective, he’s probably going to be a later third-day guy,” Mayock said, “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.”