Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

10 May 2010

Remembering the JaMarcus Russell Hype

SI.com has put together this interesting collection of quotes from when JaMarcus Russell was drafted three years ago. Props to Pete Prisco, Merril Hoge, and, to some extent, Peter King, for seeing that there was serious risk that went along with the possibility of reward.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 10 May 2010

52 comments, Last at 12 May 2010, 12:50pm by Brendan Scolari


by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 11:27am

Yay! Beautiful post. I'm no Al Davis fan, but it's irritating the number of people who were saying this was Al being moronic Al, when the pick was hugely and widely praised at the time.

by jack :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 11:35am

That, was, awesome! I would love to see a piece like this every year right before the draft with quotes detailing the hits and misses from 3-4 years ago. Just a way to ensure everyone takes the so called experts' "analysis" with a very large grain of salt.

My favorite:

"Three years from now you could be looking at a guy that's certainly one of the elite top five quarterbacks in this league. ...You're talking about a 2-3 year period once he's under center. Look out because the skill level that he has is certainly John Elway-like."

Mel "My hit rate is less than a weatherman's" Kiper

by wr (not verified) :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 11:36am

I noticed that Lane Kiffin's endorsement was decidedly
lukewarm, especially considering he was going to be
Russell's coach.

by dryheat :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 12:09pm

Yeah....Kiffin really wanted Calvin Johnson at the time, and target Trent Edwards later. Which is pretty strong evidence that he might know how to construct a winning team than Al Davis.

by BucNasty :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 11:45am

Most of what we're reading is the product of him being a big guy and throwing a football through a goalpost from the 50 yard line on his knees. All of this praise about his footwork and smarts can be simplified to: Man, what an arm!

Whatever your opinion of them, I think you have to take what both Jon Gruden and Rod Marinelli said with a grain of salt. They were both coaching teams with top 5 picks, and even though it was no secret that they both liked Calvin Johnson you're supposed to praise every top prospect to hide your intentions.

Funny how Lane Kiffin didn't seem nearly as enthusiastic about his top pick as the talking heads.

by Temo :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 3:26pm

Most of what we're reading is the product of him being a big guy and throwing a football through a goalpost from the 50 yard line on his knees. All of this praise about his footwork and smarts can be simplified to: Man, what an arm!

I'm pretty sure Kyle Boller is the only QB to be specifically cited for that particular "skill". Not that others can't or haven't done it, but he's the one who people talked about in those ridiculous terms.

by BucNasty :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 3:55am

I can pretty specifically remember it being said about Russell in the lead up to the draft. A google search kind of confirms it. I haven't looked hard enough to find any well-known talking heads citing it, but you can see fans bring it up while discussing his arm strength (though it seems I was off by one knee).


by BGNoMore (not verified) :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 7:19pm

I take it you are too young to remember Dieter Brock.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 11:50am

He did go to about the worst possible team for a lazy guy with serious work ethic problems. Things could have wound up quite different if he had gone to a team with some stability that would actually hold its players accountable

by merlinofchaos :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 12:05pm

I'd say Kudos to Mayock for identifying that the big risk there was work ethic. I.e, nobody knew if he had one or not, but clearly Mayock sensed some doubt.

by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 3:23pm

Yeah, Mayock and Prisco were pretty spot on

by Boots Day (not verified) :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 12:19pm

Has any QB wowed them at the combine, then gone on to have a good career? Game conditions are so different from a combine workout that it doesn't seem like they would tell you a whole lot about how a QB would actually perform in an NFL game. The other QB I remember who greatly improved his stock in the combine was Jeff George, who had a legitimate career but was never all that good.

by Dean :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 2:07pm

Lots of QBs had good/great combine performances and followed them with excellent NFL careers. It's just that usually they also excelled in college.

by Dired :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 10:10pm

I think is point is "has any QB dramatically increased their stock by their combine workout from where they stood at the end of their last college season and gone on to justify that in their pro career?" Everyone expects that guys who were hot properties in January will carry that over to the combine, but the guys who were just OK and then "OMFG, look at that arm!!!" in Indy - any winners there?

by Duke :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 1:15am

I don't know if there are any that shot up just from the combine, but there have been lots of QBs who have dramatically changed their stock between the end of the college season and the draft, and some of them have gone on to good careers.

Phillip Rivers, IIRC, was initially given a low 1st round/early 2nd round grade at the end of the college season, but by the time the draft came around was being talked about as a top 10 pick. Which is the reason I was very skeptical of him--I don't like guys who rise that much when the games are over...

by tuluse :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 1:36am

Mark Sanchez removed a lot of doubts with his combine.

by Kibbles :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 5:42am

Jay Cutler went from a guy who nobody was even looking at in the first round to a guy that some teams actually ranked as the top QB prospect on the board.

by jack :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 9:55am

Too lazy to look it up, by I remember something similar in regards to Joe Flacco coming out of Delaware.

by tuluse :: Wed, 05/12/2010 - 2:21am

I remember most people were projecting Flacco to go in the 2nd round before the combine.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 9:55am

Pat White probably would never have been drafted in the 2nd round if not for a very impressive combine performance.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 10:15am

Didn't Russell light it up at the Sugar Bowl that year? I remember a good deal of hype about him before the combine.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 12:35pm

I'd also like to see the reverse of this piece - if it exists. Something like a compilation of all of the people who were down on Peyton Manning or Phillip Rivers, for instance.

by Eddo :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 1:41pm

Good find. So much of that is the exact opposite (not just the character-related comments).

by Karma Coma :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 2:16pm

"Does not make poor decisions"


by Yaguar :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 2:39pm

But Ben's interception rate is fairly low...


by Noah Arkadia :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 3:27pm

Does not make poor decisions... high-character, well liked and respected... a pocket passer with marginal mobility and can'r escape the rush


by Alan Faneca (not verified) :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 4:15pm

"May not offer early returns"

Although he came out after his junior; he started a lot of games for the scouts to take a look. Wow is right

by Ruben (not verified) :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 1:02pm


by Sander :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 10:47pm

This had me laughing out loud. Gotta love KSK.

by Bobman :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 4:26pm

I can address some of the Manning stuff from (fading) memory. Everbody knew he was very good and would be so on the next level, so it all boiled down to comparison between him and Leaf (poor Leaf, and I don't say that often). So when they found flaws with PM it was the usual nits they have to pick to have something, but not much. He was not as mobile as his father was one complaint/observation. The biggest slam IIRC was "limited upside potential" because some thought he hit his ceiling in college. He was regarded as the most NFL-ready QB, but might not have much upside, as opposed to Leaf who had more tools and more potential... sigh. Will they never learn?

SI was writing articles praising PM back in HS. (Yes, it was somewhat of a "family passing the torch" piece....)

Other guys I'd like to see lambasted: Walter Jones, Ray Lewis, Asomugha, Urlacher, Jason Taylor... there have to be at least a handful of 4+ pro-bowl guys who were not thought so highly of on draft day. Brady comes to mind. Moss? Reggie Wayne? He was drafted late 1st round after a teammate WR Santana Moss. Since I'm living in a Colts world, Dallas Clark, despite winning the Mackey Award, was clearly one of the BPA when picked but apparently not a position of need for a lot oteams. I wonder what the pundits said....

I know Romo is having a nice little career to himself--was he UDFA or late round? I'd love to know what was said about that signing. Pretty sure nobody trumpeted Dallas's QB of the future.

by tuluse :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 6:18pm

People were worried about Urlacher's ability to sort out traffic and get off blocks. Which he did have a problem with early on.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 2:36pm

Percy Harvin may end up making a lot of people's comments look pretty dumb in a few years.

by Dean :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 4:53pm

Not sure why.

My thoughts, and it seemed like most of his detractors had the same school of thought, were that if he failed, it would be due to his perceived self-destructive tendencies.

I don't recall too many people saying "this guy can't play."

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 7:40pm

I recall omments questioning taking an SEC receiver that high, and that his route running was so elementary in Florida's offense that it was an excessive risk taking him that high.

Now, I highly suspect that if Tavarasage Rosenjackfelson had been taking the snaps for the Vikings, many of those doubters would now be patting themselves on the back, which just suggests that a huge part of rookie performance is team context.

by Brendan Scolari :: Wed, 05/12/2010 - 12:50pm

Or just that a huge part of any players performance is team context. We might think of Phillip Rivers just a little differently if instead of throwing to V-Jax, Gates, Floyd, LT, Chambers, Sproles, etc. his top offensive weapons for most of his career had been Frank Gore and uh.... Arnaz Battle and Brandon Lloyd. Oh, and he'd have the Niners LOL-line protecting him too.

by Shalimar (not verified) :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 8:22pm

I'm far from a professional analyst but I am a Chargers fan and I thought Phillip Rivers was more of a 2nd round pick than where he was actually chosen. And I didn't think his chances of success were anywhere near as good as the chance that Brees would develop. Not that I was confident of Brees either even though I did like him. My evaluation of Rivers was based mostly on the fact that I saw him play many times in college and while he was extremely successful he also had and has the ugliest throwing motion I have ever seen and I didn't think there was much chance it would translate well to the NFL. I was clearly very wrong about that.

by tally :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 8:46pm

Yes, I find it rather amazing that Rivers is as successful as he is despite his horrid mechanics. For someone who's listed at 6'5", his throwing motion gives him the release point of someone 6'0" (not much of an upgrade over Brees in that regard) and he still drops back like a wounded ostrich (can't claim credit for that last comment but it's too accurate).

by Duke :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 1:17am

IIRC most people had Rivers as a 2nd round pick at the end of the college season, and then he shot up the draft boards through the whole Senior Bowl/Combine/Pro Day process.

by bubqr :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 1:51pm

Mel Kiper looking like a fool, Mayock analysis is spot on, sun is shining, water is wet.

by RickD :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 1:51pm

Gotta love this quote from Kiper:

Look out because the skill level that he has is certainly John Elway-like.

by The Human Spider :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 3:07pm

Mayock and Prisco, the only people who had their heads on their shoulders.

by Dean :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 4:26pm

Feels weird to give credit to Prisco. Blind squirrel, meet nut.

by tuluse :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 6:20pm

More like just being contrarian all the time leads to being right quite a bit when it comes to sports.

by Callie (not verified) :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 4:06pm

"I'd also like to see the reverse of this piece - if it exists. Something like a compilation of all of the people who were down on Peyton Manning or Phillip Rivers, for instance."

There are a few retroactively hilarious comments from experts explaining why Leaf was the superior choice to Peyton Manning. Kiper, who's about as accurate as my scarily inept local weatherman, was naturally among those who thought Leaf was the far wiser choice.

I can actually understand why people thought Ryan Leaf was the better athlete, but what baffles me is how none of that ridiculously thorough scouting they do uncovered what a weirdly tempermental, immature douche he was.

by ChaosOnion (not verified) :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 4:56pm

So here is the big question, would Quinn have fared any better? If any other QB is a better fit in OAK, it is clearly Ben Rapistberger. Just win, baby!

Yes, I took a swing at the softball...and now I am doing the k-dance.

by Chris UK :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 7:59pm

http://www.nfl.com/draft/story?id=09000d5d80025288&template=without-vide... I remember carruci nailing the post draft summary as well.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 05/10/2010 - 11:28pm

Wow...I'm surprised anyone could say that Russell's arm strength and Sugar Bowl performance weren't being given too much weight.

by Kibbles :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 5:48am

The sad thing is that it wasn't even the Sugar Bowl... it was his pro day. It's widely accepted that Russell staged the single greatest pro day in the history of professional football scouting. People were saying things like "I didn't really like him, but after his pro day I would trade a king's ransom to get him" without realizing just how absurd such a concept was.

by WCH (not verified) :: Tue, 05/11/2010 - 9:54am

I'm not sure if it's entirely fair to categorize Russell as a guy who's stock skyrocketed during the combine/Pro-Day process.

Here was Scott Wright's mock draft on January 18th, 2007. It has Russell going #1 overall:


The guy that year who definitely saw his stock go through the ceiling during pre-draft workouts was Patrick Willis.

by Sancho Gaucho (not verified) :: Wed, 05/12/2010 - 10:54am

The video linked on my name is in Spanish, with Portuguese subtitles. Sorry for those that don't understand it. The point is how journalists switch their opinion after the result as if what they have said before simply never happened. For those that can't understand is just completely hilarious.

by Sancho gaucho (not verified) :: Wed, 05/12/2010 - 11:12am

correcting: "For those that CAN understand is just completely hilarious."