Sports Outside the Beltway

NFL Draft 2007 – Round 1 #1 – Oakland Raiders – QB JaMarcus Russell

Oakland Raiders Logo New NFL commissioner Roger Goddell officially launched the 2007 NFL Draft minutes ago. The Oakland Raiders, who have the first overall pick for the first time since 1962 (when they were part of the fledgling AFL) are on the clock.

They’re widely expected to take LSU quarterback DeMarcus Russell but are reportedly entertaining trade offers. They have 15 minutes to make a call…

They didn’t need all of it. JaMarcus Russell is indeed their man.

JaMarcus Russell Photo ESPN Draft Day Banner

What the Experts Say: Profile:

JaMarcus Russell Photo LSU Uniform STRENGTHS: Arm Strength


Analysis: A physical presence behind center, Russell possesses all the skills to lead a franchise at the next level. Showed consistent improvement over the past two seasons and offers a tremendous amount of upside. An early draft selection who favorably compares to former All-Pro Daunte Culpepper.

JaMarcus Russell Photo Street Clothes Biography: Two-year starter who also saw limited action with the first team as a redshirt freshman. All-Conference selection the past two seasons, throwing for 67.8%/3,129/28/8 as a junior after 2,443 passing yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore.

Pos: Big, powerful pocket passer with tremendous arm strength. Patient, buys time for receivers and does an outstanding job directing the offense. Stands strong in the pocket, taking a big hit or getting the throw off with defenders draped on him. Zips the outs with a flick of the wrist, easily drives the deep throw and loses nothing passing on the move. Senses pressure, makes good decisions under the rush and runs with the ball as a last resort. Identifies the open wide out on the field, leads receivers over the middle and powers the ball through the tight spots. Looks off the safety, goes through receiver progressions and takes the underneath outlet if nothing else is available.

Neg: Must improve his throwing fundamentals and pass placement, as targets are constantly adjusting to make the reception. More often than not he is high of the mark.

The Detroit Lions are on the clock…


Russell is the obvious pick for the Raiders because he fills a pressing need and has the most value at the position. Although he needs to continue to improve his decision making and work on his footwork, he has rare size and arm strength. He is accurate enough to hit receivers anywhere on the field and lead them when throwing underneath. He isn’t a great scrambler, but he can pick up yardage with his feet when nothing is available downfield.

Now the question is can he succeed at Oakland? There is no question the offensive line has underachieved so he is going to take some hits but he is big enough to absorb that kind of punishment and quick enough to buy him some time. An even greater concern may be surrounding him with quality character players. That could prove difficult considering the problems they had with their talented receivers last year and the fact that Lane Kiffin is a young, first-year head coach. If Kiffin can get Russell to buy into his system, the sky is the limit for Russell and the Raiders.

Gosselin, writing yesterday, called this choice a “no-brainer.”

When a franchise quarterback is on the draft board, you take him. That’s Football 101. He gives your team hope for the future – and a chance to be competitive in the present.

The Tennessee Titans were the youngest team in the NFL in 2006. They took Vince Young with the third overall pick of the draft and doubled their win total in the span of a season, improving from 4-12 without Young in 2005 to 8-8 with him. Young gives the Titans hope for a bright future. Just as Russell would give the Raiders hope. Quarterback is the one position that can transform a team into a Super Bowl contender.

Rich Gannon was the NFL MVP in 2002 when the Raiders won the AFC championship and appeared in their last Super Bowl. But a shoulder injury ended his 2003 season then a neck injury ended his career in 2004. The Raiders have started six quarterbacks since that Super Bowl and have won 15 of 64 games. Until Davis can stabilize his quarterback position, he cannot stabilize his franchise.

That’s why Davis must resist the temptation to draft Calvin Johnson and select Russell.

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