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UDFA QB J.T. Barrett Brings a Winner’s Mindset to the Saints

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The kid is a ready-made leader.

NCAA Football: East-West Shrine Game Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints made headlines when they sniped UDFA QB J.T. Barrett out of Ohio State from the Indianapolis Colts.

Matt Tamanini of SB Nation’s website for Ohio State University, Land-Grant Holy Land, took some quick time to answer a few questions for Saints to get to know the newest addition to the Saints QB room.

Barrett went undrafted in the 2018 NFL Draft? Were you surprised no team took a shot on him during the entire 7 rounds?

I was a little surprised, especially when you look at the quarterbacks that were selected, especially in the later rounds. Barrett is far from an NFL-ready quarterback, but when you take his college stats and NFL Combine measurables and compare them to some of the QBs that went in rounds 4-7; especially guys like Tanner Lee, Danny Etling, Alex McGough, and Logan Woodside; on paper, it is surprising.

To me, the difference is that Barrett has been at the center of the college football world’s attention for four years. So, his strengths and limitations are both equally well known. However, some of those other QBs— who might not have yet had the examination that Barrett has— have maintained a certain level of mystery, or “upside,” so that the potential of them being steals outweighs what people know that they can expect (good and bad) from Barrett.

Barrett is a dual-threat QB, known as much - if not more - for his legs than his arm. Was Barrett a run-first QB, or were his runs the product of scrambling to extend plays?

Honestly, both. During Barrett’s four years at Ohio State, the Buckeyes ran a fairly effective zone-read offense, and Barrett became pretty skilled at getting the read right the vast majority of the time. That allowed him to pick up more than his fair share of yards on the ground, and to help Urban Meyer break free of the stereotype that his offense wouldn’t allow running backs to break 1,000 yards.

However, Barrett knew that— despite his average speed— he was a capable runner. So, unless his pocket was immaculately clean, he would look for a lane to pick up yards, rather than staying put and risking a negative play.

For the college game, this can be successful, but it muddies the water in projecting him to the NFL. Barrett showed that he can take a hit (and deliver some as well), but the college game rewards mobile QBs who can read what a defense is giving them; so Barrett took advantage where he could. Despite attempts at OSU, it remains to be seen if he can be a true pocket passer.

What would you say is the strongest part of Barrett’s game?

If we are talking specifically about on the field, I would say his decision-making. In the 49 games that he played in his career, he had a 104-to-30 touchdown pass-to-interception ratio. When you include the running game, he had a total of 147 TDs and never lost a fumble. While his physical limitations (more on that in a minute) didn’t always allow him to capitalize on what he saw, for the most part, you could count on Barrett making the right decision.

If you are including the parts of his game that aren’t evident between the lines, there’s no doubt that Barrett’s ability to lead his teammates is what makes him most special. The only three-time captain in OSU football history, Barrett has proven that he has the respect of everyone whom he’s ever played with, and that certainly benefitted him late in games, especially as he was attempting to orchestrate a comeback.

Where could he look most to improve?

This is the easiest question of them all, arm-strength; and by extension, down-field accuracy. Despite the less than impressive numbers, Ohio State has had a slew of talented receivers during Barrett’s tenure in Columbus. However, the Buckeyes were never quite able to capitalize on their explosive playmaking, because frankly, Barrett couldn’t get them the ball 20 yards past the line of scrimmage

The one exception was the 2014 National Championship season. That year, both Barrett and Cardale Jones benefitted from having two phenomenal wide receivers, Devin Smith and current-Saint Michael Thomas. Those two WRs were able to go up and get jumpballs that were seemingly thrown up just in case any Buckeye was interested in going and grabbing them.

In the 2015 season, Smith had departed for the NFL, so defenses were able to focus on Thomas more, negating the advantage. Clearly, New Orleans fans have seen what Thomas can do when a QB is able to get him the ball. Unfortunately, Barrett was not able to do that consistently in his final three years as OSU’s quarterback.

Do you see Barrett as a future, long-term QB at the NFL level?

It depends on what you mean by “NFL level.” Do I think that he could do an excellent job running a practice squad until his eligibility there expires? Absolutely. Do I think that he could be a solid emergency, third QB to come in as a bridge and run the offense in the direst of situations? Definitely. Do I think that he could be a solid NFL No. 2 backup? Debatable. Do I think that he’s ever going to be an NFL starter? I would be shocked; thrilled, but shocked.

***

Thank-you so much for your time and insight, Matt!

Saints fans, make sure you check out Matt and the rest of the hard-working guys’ work over at Land-Grant Holy Land. You can also follow their work on Twitter @LandGrant33. You can follow Matt on Twitter @BWWMatt. As always, you always follow me on Twitter @dunnellz.

What do you think about the Saints UDFA QB? Could he be the heir to Drew Brees? Do you think he can be anything more than practice squad fodder? Tell us in the comments. Send me presents.