Opening some eyes: It seems that every year there are a handful of athletes who somewhat unexpectedly get the attention of team representatives at the NFL Scouting Combine. This year, Arizona State safety Josh Barrett was one of those players.
After a 2006 junior year when he made 82 tackles — third-best in the Pac-10 — 7.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and three interceptions, the 6-foot-2, 223-pound strong safety battled through a series of injuries during his senior year. A defensive team captain in 2007, Barrett even rebounded back into the starting lineup after being dropped down on the depth chart for two weeks. Throughout the season he made notable plays on special teams, but while limited by the injuries, he wasn't quite the same player that the Sun Devils were used to seeing flying all over the field.
Arizona State's Josh Barrett runs with the ball against Washington in 2006.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Then at the Combine, Barrett sent a signal to NFL team representatives that he was healthy again, running an amazing 4.35-second forty-time, with some teams clocking him as low as 4.31 seconds according to one league source. That sent teams scrambling to take another look at his 2006 game film to determine what they might expect to see from him in a pro training camp this summer.
Barrett told Scout.com that he had a formal interview with the Minnesota Vikings and the Oakland Raiders at the Combine, who both had already talked with him at the Senior Bowl. And he said he "thoroughly enjoyed" his meeting with the Denver Broncos while referring to his meeting with the Houston Texans as a "huge interview." The Sun Devils' safety said the Texans' defensive backs coach even made a follow-up call to talk to him while he was on the way to the airport.
Barrett also met with the Ravens, which shouldn't be a surprise since defensive backs coach Mark Carrier had an opportunity to coach him prior to joining Baltimore's coaching staff in 2006. He said he also had interviews with the Jets, Steelers, Bengals, Giants, Falcons, Eagles, 49ers, Redskins, Panthers and Seahawks while in Indianapolis.
Quick to gain interest: The fastest running back at the Combine, East Carolina's Chris Johnson who ran a 4.24-second 40-time, had little time to sleep while he was in Indianapolis.
After going through all of the testing and drills that are required during the daytime hours of the annual event, Johnson's appointment card was jam-packed with teams that wanted to meet with him for formal interviews in the evening. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound back who rushed for 1,462 yards his senior year told Scout.com that he met with the Browns, Dolphins, Cowboys, Patriots, Bills, Giants, Bengals, Seahawks, Texans, Packers, Panthers, Cardinals, Rams, Eagles, Titans, Broncos, Redskins, Chiefs and Jaguars.
The quiet, yet personable, Johnson didn't seem to mind having to hop from room to room to meet with so many teams. It gave him an opportunity to let them know who he was as a person in addition to what they had seen of him on film as a player.
"I just told them that I was a level person with great character, no character problems in my future or anything like that," he said during this exclusive interview with Scout.com. "They're going to get somebody on their team that the whole team is going to be able to get along with and the whole team will like."
In addition to catching passes for another 528 yards, Johnson also has demonstrated his skill as a kickoff returner, averaging 28.0 yards per return in 2007. He will be working out for team representatives at a personal pro day this month, already bypassing East Carolina's Pro Day that was held on March 5.
"At the Combine, I did the 40-yard dash, the vertical jump, and broad jump," Johnson said. "At my pro day, I'm going to do the short shuttle, the three cone, the bench press, and position drills. The only thing I'm going to do there that I did at the Combine is the vertical jump. I hope to improve on the vertical jump."
A change for the positive: Oklahoma's D.J. Wolf had to switch positions heading into his senior year, a move that could have been a real detriment to a player with NFL dreams. Already having switched from running back to cornerback earlier in his collegiate career, Wolf was moved to safety for his senior season.
And it proved to be a move that likely boosted his draft stock instead of hurting it.
The 5-foot-11 defensive back found that seeing more of the field from the safety position allowed him to use his downhill speed to his team's advantage in run-support. And he was able to react more fluidly to receivers, using good angles and lateral movement as they ran their routes coming towards him off the line of scrimmage.
With what he was able to accomplish during his first year as a safety, Wolf's upside potential will be a factor in determining how high he's selected in this April's NFL Draft. He led his team in interceptions with four during his 2007 season while finishing third in tackles with 87, including 52 solo efforts.
"With more good coaching, who knows what's possible," Wolf said during an interview with Scout.com that will be published this week. "The sky is really the limit with that."
One of the teams that is checking out that potential is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who Wolf told Scout.com that he met with for a formal interview at the NFL Combine.