Monday, May 10, 2010

The case why JaMarcus Russell is NOT the biggest NFL Draft Bust

Ever since former Oakland Raiders Quarterback (QB) JaMarcus Russell was released (basically fired), there has been an obsession with him being the "number one draft bust in NFL history". Such a statement is made by people who seemingly forget history. And the fact I need to make a case explaining what players and QB’s where bigger busts (disappointments) then Russell in NFL history is pathetic.

The reason why Russell was drafted number 1 overall in 2007 wasn’t because he really was the best player in the draft that year, but because Al Davis, owner of the Raiders was infatuated with him. The 2007 NFL draft was not a very deep talent draft. The best players in the 2007 draft were Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, and Adrian Peterson. If Peterson was fully healthy, the Raiders might have drafted him while other teams would not have let him fall to the Vikings. The Raiders, because of their interest in Russell, created such hype around him that people assumed that there are high expectations for him.

While Russell may have been the biggest bust of the 2007 NFL Draft, he cannot be labeled the biggest "QB Bust”. Russell was not considered the top QB prospect in the 2007 draft. Russell was drafted number one overall because he was seen as a "special talent". Brady Quinn, who was drafted 22nd overall by the Cleveland Browns, was seen as a better overall QB then Russell. But Oakland didn’t like the fact that Quinn was not a very mobile QB so they zoned in and picked Russell.

The biggest QB Bust of all time, in my opinion, is Ryan Leaf. When you look back at the 1998 NFL Draft, both of the top 2 picks where held by teams who needed great Quarterback to be the face of the franchise. The Colts were actually considering drafting Leaf over Peyton Manning. Looking back we see how nuts that idea would have been because Manning is now a superstar QB and is going to be in the Hall of Fame one day. But some people in the Colts organization at the time liked Leaf's delivery and arm strength better then Manning's. Many people in the NFL in 1998 considered Peyton Manning the number one QB prospect but saw Leaf as a very close second. Peyton was not seen as a sure thing because some viewed him as a player who did not always perform under pressure.

Leaf didn’t just not live up to expectations, but he totally imploded. The man who was supposed to be the alternative to Peyton Manning had issues on and off the field. He blew up on reports, was moody, and did lousy on the field. On the other hand, Russell was seen as a guy who was very raw but could develop into "a real good player". Leaf was seen as a possible great QB. So, based purely on expectations, Leaf was a bigger bust then Russell.

Now let’s consider the biggest number 1 overall drafted NFL bust. That title could go to Ki-Jana Carter, drafter in 1995 by the Cincinnati Bengals. He was considered the next "great running back". You look at five of the next eight picks after him were all players who had solid NFL careers while Carter couldn’t stay healthy. The Bengals franchise suffered for the next several years because they invested so much in him. On the other hand, three years after the Raiders drafted Russell, they have a chance at making the playoffs.

So while the Oakland Raiders made a bad pick when they drafted Russell in 2007, it is unfair to say he is the biggest bust of all NFL picks. Russell’s career is still not over but it is obvious he will never be the player the Raiders envisioned he would become when they drafted him in 2007. Russell lacks the work ethic and genuine interest in football to become a great QB. Maybe when Russell sees he is running low on cash he will get himself into shape, impress a team and get signed to a contract and be given a shot at starting again. Until then, people need to realize he should not be labeled the worst of the NFL disappointments.

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