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Posted May 11, 2010
The JaMarcus Russell Lesson
He might go down as the greatest bust in NFL history - certainly one of the two biggest along with Ryan Leaf.
Coming out of Louisiana State, NFL scouts and general managers salivated over an arm strength that rivaled John Elway's. JaMarcus Russell had very good size and mobility, and simply was the physical prototype. Russell was the consensus No. 1 quarterback in the 2007 NFL Draft. Al Davis took the big-armed signal caller No. 1 overall, and nobody criticized the selection.
However, if you didn't think taking Russell No. 1 overall wasn't a massive risk, then you simply just don't have a clue - and yes this includes NFL brass. Of course, in the media, if you aren't employed in the NFL or weren't formerly employed, then you just aren't as intelligent as people in the NFL. I'm sorry, but I have to call bull***t on this.
When a quarterback shows up to the Combine at 265 pounds (15-20 pounds overweight for a 6-6 frame), then this should have set off a MAJOR red flag.
Every prospect at the NFL Combine should be in the best physical shape of their life. The Combine is where you show off your athleticism and strength, and you have two months after the football season ends to specifically train for this event. There is no excuse one can make.
When Russell showed up heavily overweight at the Combine, every general manager should have removed or significantly downgraded him on their board. That goes for any other player as well.
My question is, if you aren't going to be in shape for one of the biggest days of your life in which you are under the world's biggest football microscope, then when will you ever get in shape? If you aren't willing to work your butt off to make your dream of playing in the NFL a reality, then you aren't going to be willing to work once you have millions of dollars in the NFL.
I'm hardly shocked Jamarcus Russell completely busted. I didn't think he'd be this bad, but Brady Quinn was my No. 1 quarterback in 2007 and Russell wasn't in the top 10 of my board. This isn't rocket science - I'm not saying I'm the smartest person in the world. I just feel like character and effort evaluation should be common practice in the NFL.
Unfortunately, it isn't common practice. Every team thought Russell was going to be great - or at least he had the highest upside of any quarterback in NFL Draft history.
Giving a player millions and millions of dollars doesn't motivate someone to work harder. When a player becomes rich, they need to be self-driven to take their game to the next level. They have to love the game. They have to want it more than the next guy. I'm not saying intangibles are absolutely everything - you do need talent. All I am saying is that you need at least average intangibles if you are going to draft someone in the first round.
When I look at lazy, immature prospects such as Andre Smith (2009) and Anthony Davis (2010) who showed up to the NFL Combine completely out of shape, I gave them third-round grades. Smith has worse intangibles than Russell. He LEFT the Combine. Are you really trying to tell me that Smith is going to pan out unlike Russell? Please. I'll believe it when I see it.
You can't buy into what everyone else thinks. When a player has extremely bad intangibles, I really could care less if he is a consensus first-round prospect. History says players with really poor work ethic simply don't pan out. When I look at players drafted highly with reportedly bad work ethic such as Trent Williams, Smith, Davis and Russell, I just shake my head.
Some may argue that at some point the players' talent supercedes the value of the pick, whether it's late first round, early second round, etc. I completely disagree. If a player has a high probability to bust because of a very poor work ethic, then it simply isn't worth it to take a chance on that player when you can draft another highly productive starter for your football team.
Russell has never loved the game. We never truly saw a very high level of competitiveness when he was at Louisiana State. He reportedly had a bad work ethic and this was obvious at the Combine. He never talked to the press as if he truly cared about the game.
OK, he did have an extremely high upside NFL scouts and GMs (who are smarter than me since they are in the NFL). However, didn't Joe Thomas and Calvin Johnson also have ridiculously high upsides with elite work ethics to boot? Drafting Russell at No. 1 overall was like betting on green in roulette - massive risk with a massive payoff if you hit.
However, odds are if you bet on green you are going to lose your money - and Al Davis lost a ton of money and time setting his franchise back by taking a chance Russell (not that I blame Davis because 90 percent of teams in the NFL would have done so if they needed a quarterback).
Like I said before, intangibles aren't everything. Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow have great work ethics, but I really think they have no chance of panning out as quarterbacks because they have great deficiencies.
Scouting is highly subjective - it is something everybody is a little inconsistent on because we aren't computers. My theory is that the best prospects have a combination of having an extremely well-rounded skill set and an extremely high-level of skill set. The further you go down on your big board the less well-rounded and the level of the skill set decreases.
No prospect is perfect, but to succeed in the NFL you have to be fairly complete. You need the talent and the intangibles - you can't just have one or the other.
Russell had all the talent, but absolutely no intangibles. The problem here is that history repeats itself time and time again, yet people constantly live in the present instead of looking back and applying draft history to today.
Andre Smith showed up to the Combine fat and went AWOL, yet people made excuses for him. I heard most teams in the NFL still had him rated in the top 20 of their boards. He said he didn't even train for the Combine.
Anthony Davis' body looked very flabby and poorly put together, and he seemed highly sluggish in drills. He clocked in his 40 at 5.35 - a pedestrian time for any offensive lineman.
History is repeating itself, and to me it just doesn't seem like anybody is learning from past draft mistakes.