Saturday, February 24, 2007
By John McMullen
One game matters.
To illustrate my point, I give you Brady Quinn and JaMarcus Rusell
Quinn was the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft before the LSU Tigers faced his Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Sugar Bowl.
Russell? A junior with a strong arm projected to be a first day pick if he declared. (That’s a third rounder for those of you uninitiated with draft speak.).
Today, Quinn has fallen -- albeit not too far -- and Russell has been a shooting star, the new presumptive No. 1 with a ticket to the Bay Area in sight. When you consider how much money NFL teams pour into scouting, it’s really stupefying that an organization could possibly change its draft boards to such a degree after just one game. But, that‘s exactly what happened all around the league.
Sure, the Tigers trounced the Irish but it wasn’t all that hard to figure out why -- LSU had vastly superior speed on both sides of the ball. Quinn certainly didn’t forget how to be an NFL quarterback in one night, his receivers couldn’t get separation and his offensive line was whiffing against better athletes.
“When you look at a senior, people start to beat them up a little bit more easily than they can the juniors who only come out January 15th,” NFL Network's lead draft analyst Mike Maycock said in a recent conference call. “Brady Quinn hasn't thrown the football since the bowl game. The bowl game was a tough game for Notre Dame.”
So with that one tough game, Quinn went from sure fire hit to a free-fall and Mayock for one is isn’t quite sure why.
“I mean, to me Brady Quinn is still the same quarterback I watched as a junior, and he's still a franchise-type quarterback,” Mayock said. “All those perceptions don't really get to me because I can sit down with the game tape.”
Of course, Mayock still gushes over Russell like everyone else. “From a physical skill set perspective, I've never seen a college quarterback with more ability than JaMarcus Russell,” Mayock raved. “You put the tape on and it's frightening. He's 6-foot-6, 260 pounds. He can make every throw. He's got better touch than you would expect. He's got a pretty good feel for the game for a guy that hasn't had all that many snaps.”
So why wasn’t Russell a sure fire star on January 2?
The questions with JaMarcus Russell are going to come up on the work ethic side and how much the guy loves football or doesn't love football,” said Mayock.
And there you have it -- we just might be witnessing the sequel to Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf.
“At the top end of that NFL Draft, you're playing guys $10, $15, $20 million guaranteed top,” Mayock said. “If you miss at the top end, you can set your franchise back three to five years, especially with a franchise quarterback. As we get closer, the scrutiny on JaMarcus Russell will increase, especially off the field. So how much does the guy love football? How hard is he willing to work? Really that's what Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders have to decide.”
In every draft -- history is the ultimate judge.
The Raiders have about six weeks to figure out which side of history they want to be on.
John appears on this page every Saturday. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org