COLUMBUS, Ohio — As a potential NFL player, J.T. Barrett is a polarizing prospect.
In many ways, the Ohio State quarterback is a walking paradox of what franchises look for when selecting a signal-caller.
He has the numbers, but he doesn’t come from the right system. He has the leadership skills and intangibles, but not the prototypical size. The accuracy is there, but is the arm strength?
More on that in a minute.
Barrett is only a redshirt junior, so he’ll still have a year of eligibility in Columbus remaining at the end of this season. But it also wouldn’t be a surprise to see him enter the 2017 NFL draft, given all he’s already accomplished in his college career.
Speaking of which …
With two more touchdowns, Barrett will break Drew Brees’ Big Ten career record of total touchdowns responsible for (95). Technically, Brees combined for 104 passing and rushing touchdowns in his time at Purdue from 1997-2000, but the NCAA didn’t officially recognize bowl stats until 2002. So with two touchdowns against Maryland this weekend, Barrett will become the conference’s official all-time leader.
Earlier this season, Barrett broke Braxton Miller’s total touchdowns mark (88) at Ohio State. At this point, passing Brees is not a matter of “if” but “when” for the Buckeyes’ quarterback.
“That’s just crazy to think about,” Barrett said of his impending milestone. “If you would have told me when I was a sophomore in high school, ‘J.T., you’re going to be doing this,’ I would have called you a liar. Or I just wouldn’t have believed you. I’m going to be honored. I definitely don’t take that lightly.”
For Barrett — who like Brees, hails from Texas — passing the New Orleans Saints star quarterback has some added significance. Not only does Brees lay claim to a historic college career, but he’s already accomplished enough in his ongoing 16-year NFL career to eventually land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Could Barrett one day do the same?
It seems unfathomable, right? Brees will one day have a bust in Canton and Barrett is currently a borderline pro prospect. Previous comparisons to Russell Wilson and even Tyrod Taylor have seemed overly optimistic. But comparing Barrett to a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback? That’s preposterous.
Or is it?
Take a look at this scouting assessment of Brees ahead of the 2001 NFL draft, via FootballsFuture.com:
- Touch passer with the ability to read and diagnose defensive coverages
- Confident leader who knows how to take command in the huddle
- Very tough and mobile moving around in the pocket
- Has a quick setup and is very effective throwing on the move
- Hits receivers in stride and improvises his throws in order to make a completion
- Puts good zip behind the short and mid-range passes
- Shows good judgement and keen field vision
- Has a take-charge attitude and is very cool under pressure
- Hits receivers in motion with impressive velocity
- Has superb pocket presence and uses all of his offensive weapons in order to move the chains
- Elusive scrambler with the body control to avoid the rush
- Plays in the spread offense, taking the bulk of his snaps from the shotgun
- Tends to side-arm his passes going deep
- Lacks accuracy and touch on his long throws
- Seems more comfortable in the short/intermediate passing attack
- Does not possess the ideal height you look for in a pro passer, though his ability to scan the field helps him compensate in this area
- Will improvise and run when the passing lanes are clogged, but tends to run through defenders rather than trying to avoid them to prevent unnecessary punishment.
Sounds familiar, Buckeye fans, doesn’t it?
To almost a T, both good and bad, that reads like a report on Barrett. In college, both Brees’ and Barrett’s mobility, accuracy and leadership were enough to overcome their shortcomings. Their similarity in size is especially striking. Purdue listed Brees at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds while Ohio State touts Barrett as a generous 6-foot-2, 222 pounds.
In the NFL, Brees had to overcome questions about being a product of Joe Tiller’s pass-happy spread system.
Will Barrett be able to do the same?
His head coach is familiar with Brees and sees the similarities. As the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame, Urban Meyer received a live look at what the future nine-time Pro Bowler was capable of in three consecutive matchups between the Fighting Irish and Boilermakers from 1998-2000. Having maintained a relationship with Saints head coach Sean Payton, the Buckeyes coach said there are valid comparisons to be made between his star quarterback and Brees. This past spring, incidentally, New Orleans drafted ex-Buckeyes Michael Thomas and Vonn Bell.
“I’ve studied Drew Brees. I think he’s fantastic. He’s a competitive guy,” Meyer said on Tuesday’s Big Ten coaches teleconference. “I’m a big fan of Drew Brees. I certainly do see the competitive spirit in both [Brees and Barrett] and the efficiency that they both work.”
Obviously, Barrett still has a long way to go to live up to such standard at the next level. The San Diego Chargers thought highly enough of Brees coming out of college to make him the No. 32 overall pick of the 2001 draft, while Barrett’s pro prospects remain murky at the moment.
But as far as their college careers are concerned, the comparison is pretty spot on, with Barrett on the verge of eclipsing Brees in multiple statistical totals and efficiency marks.
What will the future hold for Barrett in the NFL? We may find out soon enough.
Just know that many of the many questions that will be asked were also concerns once held about one of the sport’s all-time greats.