NFL Draft: The curious case of J.T. Barrett

I went to J.T. Barrett’s media availability Friday to see not him but those around him.

I have heard the former Ohio State quarterback speak many times over the past four years, so I had a good idea what he was going to say.

Sometimes that is bad, but not in the case of Barrett.

He will drop deep thoughts from time to time, but in general he comes across as calm, cool and collected. Confident, though not close to cocky.

He will get a little excitable if he gets onto a topic that fires him up, like the structure of Ohio State's offense or the strength of his arm.

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He also seems to be pretty aware of who he is as a football player and a man, which I have learned is a vastly underrated trait for athletes, writers and pretty much everyone else.

Some people achieve that at 22, some at 32, some never, I guess.

But anyway, that’s something Barrett has going for him.

I was curious what people who hadn’t covered him would want to know about the former Buckeye.

The questions weren’t too surprising. Nor were his reactions.

He mostly went with the flow, though he did stop to ask someone what they meant when they described him as an “option quarterback.”

That was an interesting moment because the term “option quarterback” has changed a lot since, well, about the time Barrett probably started playing football.

Once upon a time, everyone who was an option quarterback was doing what they do at Army and Navy nowadays. They certainly weren’t throwing 26 times per game, as Barrett did last year.

Those offenses are fun to watch because they are a novelty now, but they present great challenges to developing as a passer — far greater than those encountered by quarterbacks running today’s spread offenses.

The rise of the spread offense and subsequent invention of the spread-option drastically changed football in high school and college.

(The pros are still catching up, but they’re getting there.)

The spread-option made running and passing easier but scouting quarterbacks harder.

J.T. Barrett is a pretty good representation of this.

He is not a great athlete like Vince Young or Braxton Miller, but he was far more productive than, say, Craig Krenzel because he operated in an offense that made a lot of different things easier to execute without being able to outrun everyone or throw the ball through the wall.

(Some of the shortcuts created by Ohio State’s offense and others like it are not available or at least as effective in the pros because the defenses are faster and defenders execute their assignments more consistently.)

So how good is Barrett?

That’s what everyone wants to know.

He feels pretty good about himself, and he should.

Draft stock is sometimes a figment of media imagination, but if there is such a thing, it is rising for Barrett thanks to a good showing at the East-West Shrine Game in January.

Getting to concentrate solely on football will probably benefit a guy with his smarts and work ethic. Then who knows what might happen?

Intelligence and savvy are more important than formations when it comes to beating good defenses in the NFL, and Barrett has those.

I also wonder if he will benefit from not getting hit as much as he did in college.

Sometimes delivering a strike on third-and-seven is a taller task if you just ran three yards and got smashed by two linebackers and a safety for the 10th time in the past couple of hours.

But then again, maybe Barrett just isn’t accurate. Maybe he’ll never be consistent.

If so, he’s probably going to have a pretty good future in football anyway if he wants it.

Barrett didn’t answer a question about what would be next for him when football is over, whether that is in a year or 10 years, but hardly anyone has ever seemed more like a future coach.

I’m sure there are numerous other things he could do successfully outside of sports if he chooses, too.

He did have a quick response when asked if he found it odd to be out of the spotlight at the Combine after being the center of attention always at Ohio State.

“Nah, I’m good.”

In retrospect, that seems like an obvious question, but it’s also kind of silly.

Don’t we usually wonder if pressure has a negative effect on players?

Barrett was frequently available to reporters but never seemed to seek the spotlight at Ohio State. Obviously it tends to follow quarterbacks who throw for more yards and touchdowns than anyone else in school history, but I am pretty sure he would not have complained if he never had to do an interview, either.

Some time to work on his craft in relative obscurity will probably do Barrett good.

I have already gone on record as being for a “redshirt year” even for first-round picks, but there really seems to be some advantage for these guys who are taken later and don’t play until they have mastered more nuances of the position.

Barrett does not have the athletic celling of the big five QBs in this draft (Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson), but some or all of them are bound to get chewed up and spit out before they have a chance to figure out what’s going on.

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Heck, sometimes the best thing for a quarterback is to not play, as evidenced by AJ McCarron’s pending payday.

McCarron, of course, wanted to play. He said all the right things while backing up Andy Dalton while also leaving any question about that.

Barrett no doubt also wants to step into a lineup sooner than later, but he seems at peace with his current position.

As for those around him at the Combine podium, we might have been more worried about his future than he is.

Maybe that’s a good thing for him, too.

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