Tales: Josh Barrett redux

After a long consideration of the Josh Barrett situation, I decided to go back and get a better understanding of who the player is, why his draft stock dropped precipitously and what we might expect from him. What I found didn’t surprise me, but it filled in the gaps in my understanding. Unlike a lot of players I research, there was a plethora of info on Barrett. The problem was getting through everything and achieving comprehension.

A little background: He was like most NFL players early on. He went to Reno (Nev.) High School, playing football for head coach Dan Avansino and was chosen the Northern Class 4A Football Player of the Year in Nevada in 2002. He was a member of the Las Vegas Sun All-State team on offense and as a returner, garnering first-team All-Region honors at wide receiver, defensive back and return specialist as a senior. He also earned Sierra League first-team honors and was the Conference Player of the Year. As a first-team All-Sierra League selection at defensive back, receiver and as a returner, Barrett also made All-League as a running back...Rushed for 490 yards on 60 carries and scored five touchdowns. He also caught 22 passes for 365 yards and five more scores while making five interceptions in his final year. Barrett returned seven kicks and punts for touchdowns and scored four times on interception returns during his career. As a junior, he was named to the All-Nevada Class 4A and All-Northern Region second-team as a returner, adding All-Sierra League first-team honors. It’s what a lot of NFL players show us – the ability to separate their abilities from similar players at multiple levels.

He was heavily recruited and decided to attend Arizona State University. Unfortunately for Barrett, their team wasn’t playing at its best while he was there, which immediately lowered his status. However, clippings indicate that the defensive secondary did play well overall.

Barrett has always been a mixed bag as a player/athlete. He has a reputation as a hard worker on and off the field with very good intangibles.They said that he plays the game hard and shows good football intelligence. People have raved about his motor and intensity, which will endear him to Shanahan, who looks for that in practice and especially on special teams, where it’s likely that Barrett will start his pro career.

But this is a young man who was benched for problems possibly with effort as well as injuries early in his senior year. Still, he rebounded and gave his all, despite more senior year injuries. It showed on film, and the Goodman’s liked him. As a 7th round pick, they couldn’t resist. But, 7th round? Que? Sure.

Due to injuries in 2007, Barrett apparently became discouraged. I’m interpreting, but there’s evidence. You see, he missed nearly all of 2003 with two right shoulder injuries, a separation and contusions. The first injury, the separation, occurred on Sept 6 of that year, the season opener against Northern Arizona, and it was aggravated by double contusions during Oct and Nov. But he was a stud in 2004, 5 and 6.

So in 2007, he suffered a pectoral muscle strain vs. San Diego State on Sept 15, early in his senior campaign. During the next game, Sept 22, he had a quad contusion vs. Oregon State and had to sit. His attitude suffered. He was benched. Then, despite playing his way back into his coaches’ graces, he left the Southern California contest (11/22) and sat out the final two games vs. Arizona (12/01) and Texas (12/27) with a right knee sprain. Scouts shook their heads and wondered who he was.

He has a lot of upside. Since he missed nearly all of his freshman year, he’s a year behind on coaching. Sometimes it shows – he shows great straight line speed, but has trouble when mirroring receivers.

Fftoolbox.com noted: "He needs to show better instincts and with NFL coaching has the athletic ability to do very well in the NFL." In other words – he may be a project.

Yes, and a project who is 6’2, about 225 (estimates vary, 222 to 233) who runs a 2.35 40. One report worried about his gaining adult muscle dropping his overtime in the future, but there’s evidence to the contrary. He was 233 when he ran under 2.35 by one clock. So, no worries there.

He’s smart as heck. He finished his degree before his senior season and boasted a 3.45 GPA and yes, he plans to become a dentist. Smart players make better secondary generals, if he winds up at free safety.

Every Morning QB said, "I also liked the workouts from UTEP’s Quintin Demps (4.4-40) and Arizona State’s Josh Barrett (4.35-40). It’s not considered a strong safety class this year, but these guys will give NFL teams something to consider in the early to mid rounds."

NFL.com was succinct: "Pick Analysis: Barrett had a great junior campaign and potentially could've been a third-round pick, but he got benched as a senior. He has all the measurables and exceptional speed, 4.36 in the 40. Barrett matured a lot after sitting and demonstrated poise when he came back. His lack of playing time, though, clearly hurt his draft stock."

It makes sense. Walterfootball.com added, "Josh is a solid safety, but a lot of his stock will hinge on his workouts. He projects in the middle rounds and worst and might even be able to sneak up into the 3rd"

Okay, quick good side: He's a sure tackler who hits hard. Reads the action and puts himself in position to make plays on the ball. Aggressive in run support. Not afraid to mix it up with offensive linemen and fullbacks. Relies on his natural athleticism and hand usage to disengage from blockers. Good lateral quickness to string out the play. Good late burst.

And: "Josh has incredible size for a safety, at 6-3 231 pounds. His linebacker size enables him to square up on defenders and knock on the ground. He also has great speed, perhaps the Sun Devils's fastest player despite weighing over 230 pounds. Plays with incredible tenacity and is extremely durable.: (walterfootball.com)

And the bad: Even with incredible speed for a safety, he still occasionally gets beat in coverage. Also, does not have the best hands, with only 5 career interceptions. And, "Can close on the ball in front of him, but needs to drive harder with his legs and extend his arms to properly wrap and secure the ballcarrier (will dive at runners or take a side rather than square up)...Does not have the recovery burst to get back on the route when the receiver gets behind him...Not an instinctive player, making poor reads (or late) at times and is prone to biting on play-action...Must develop looser hips, as he struggles when redirecting and changing direction...Allows too much of a cushion vs. short-area receivers, who just settle into soft spots in front of him...Plays too flat-footed and is too rigid in his turns to come out of his cuts with a sudden burst... Has a litany of injury problems that lead to durability issues...For a player of his size, he tends to try to out-finesse blockers rather than attack them with aggression..."

Other that other than the issue of his hips, which is a concern, notice that this is nearly all technique and lack of quality coaching (IMHO). So that’s it. He’s a project that needs a lot of good coaching. And, he’s got an amazing upside. Kudos to Shanahan and Co. for taking the slow road to develop an emerging player at one of our greatest positions of need!

Originally posted at MHR

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