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How good will JaMarcus Russell be at the Pro Level?

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Old 03-19-2007, 04:08 AM   #1
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How good will JaMarcus Russell be at the Pro Level?

It's not really Skins draft talk (thankfully), but it will be a hot topic over the next month and a week, so I opened a thread for it.

Will the team that drafts JaMarcus Russell get it's QB of the future?

Scouts have spent the past 2 months now oggling Russell's impressive arm strength and throwing fluidity. But can these things really tell us anything about Russell as a player? Probably not.

The only thing we can do right now to see how Russell will pan out would be to compare him historically to other guys who have made the college to pro jump and see if we can draw any parallels between him and guys with similar career paths.

Russell's career numbers at LSU were pretty good, and show him deserving of a first round pick. But whereas draft class 2007 comrade Brady Quinn leaves Notre Dame a 4 year starter, Russell leaves LSU an underclassman.

So what is the significance of college playing time? Can't an NFL prospect just spend more time on the sidelines learning the ins and outs and nuiances of the NFL game and let his athleticism take over when his time comes? Conventional NFL wisedom has been doing this for years? They call them, "developmental projects".

But I would argue that a developmental project is a non existant concept. The whole idea doesn't make sense. We all know a player is going to improve every year beyond his rookie year until his prime, and thus a rookie will always be inferior to a veteran of an identical career path. But who are the examples of guys who just CAN'T play for the first 5-10 years of their careers and then just turn it on? Players like Rich Gannon, Jake Delhomme and Trent Green come to mind. But let me ask you this: would ANY team EVER take a QB who they assumed would suck for the first 5 or so years of his career? No chance. Developmental projects don't exist. Teams take the best possible QB they can get (for their system) to fill out their roster. The best "developmental" QB should also be the best, young, immediate impact QB! There's no reason to expect one to remain independant of the other.

Which brings the original question back into focus: What is the significance of College playing experience?

Now seeing that a QB will enter the NFL on a very similar career path to the way he leaves it (barring of course a career ending injury), doesn't this change the value of NCAA QB experience? It now appears that starting more games would ALWAYS be beneficial to the QB. That would mean that leaving school early, while potentially a smart business decision, would ALWAYS hurt the quality of a guy's career.

Is this even plausible? Let's go to the numbers:

For first round QB's (of the last 10 years) only, it seems like we could--in fact--predict their successes at the next level based ONLY on the number of games they started in college. So if the scouts unianimously like a guy (because hes a first rounder), and he has a lot of college experience, recent history shows that this guy is a virtual lock for success. (This is really good news for J. Campbell, although there were exceptions--with very awful college stats).

Chad Pennington: 51 starts
Philip Rivers: 51 starts
Peyton Manning: 45 starts
Carson Palmer: 45 starts
Jay Cutler: 45 starts
Donovan McNabb: 45 starts
Daunte Culpepper: 44 starts
Matt Leinart: 39 starts
Jason Campbell: 39 starts
Drew Brees: 37 starts (he was the first pick in the 2nd round)
Eli Manning: 37 starts

Look at that company. More importantly, compare that company to guys who didn't start a lot of games in college.

Patrick Ramsey: 32 starts
Rex Grossman: 31 starts
Joey Harrington: 28 starts
JP Losman: 27 starts
David Carr: 26 starts
Tim Couch: 25 starts
Ryan Leaf: 24 starts
Aaron Rodgers: 22 starts
Alex Smith: 22 starts
Michael Vick: 19 starts
Akili Smith: 19 starts

So where does Russell fit in? Over his career at LSU, JaMarcus Russell started 29 games. Not only that, but his career 62% completion is not really any better than another SEC QB who left school early (and started 2 more games). I'm talking about the incomprable Rex Grossman.

For sake of comparision, Brady Quinn started 46 games at Notre Dame and ranks up there with McNabb and Palmer with his college stats.

This study argues that with another year of experience, JaMarcus Russell would be a great NFL QB prospect. But by coming out a year early, history as least suggests the guy will have a rather mediocre NFL career.
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Old 03-19-2007, 04:17 AM   #2
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Re: How good will JaMarcus Russell be at the Pro Level?

This doesn't mean that guys with more starts ALWAYS do better, but rather differenciates between two favorably (highly) scouted prospects (such as Russell/Quinn, Leaf/Manning...etc..)

But the concept basicially states that if guys like Vick, Rodgers, Smith etc... had stayed in school and performed well over the remainder of their career--they would have been great QBs in this league.

Then again, some of the guys on that list might have gone the Ron Pawlus route. Basically have a great two years, a disappointing junior year, and instead of opting for the draft, deciding to come back and effectively falling off the face of the earth. There's no guarentee that if Grossman came back and played for Zook as a Sr. that he would have even gone on the first day in the 2004 draft!

But that's one of the things this is testing for, consistent play.

Moral of the story: stay in school kids.
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Old 03-19-2007, 06:06 AM   #3
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Re: How good will JaMarcus Russell be at the Pro Level?

I'm not entirely sold on Russell. could be another Dante Culpepper, with some NFL success. or could be another Akili Smith, who with Ryan Leaf formed the 2 biggest NFL busts ever
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Old 03-19-2007, 08:25 AM   #4
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Re: How good will JaMarcus Russell be at the Pro Level?

Russell can have all the physical tools in the world but if he doesn't have NFL-level decision making (near automatic) ability then he'll be lumped in with your second group of guys.
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Old 03-19-2007, 08:31 AM   #5
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Re: How good will JaMarcus Russell be at the Pro Level?

As far as staying in school, if you have a great Junior year you could leave a lot of money on the table. Even if you don't get hurt, look at Matt Leinart. Or you could get hurt.

As far as Russell, the guy has impressive physical stats. And looks like he could be great. I'm a firm believer that most everyone drafted during the first day can play football at the pro level. I feel it's more about the team that drafts them rather than the player. It all comes down to development of the player and scheme. Sometimes you'll see an extraordinary player who can excel anywhere, and sometimes you'll find a player who might be depth elsewhere excel with the correct team.
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Old 03-19-2007, 08:38 AM   #6
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Re: How good will JaMarcus Russell be at the Pro Level?

Your list is pretty convincing.

However, based on choosing more college experience over those who leave early could cause some problems. Say a guy has 10 more career starts over the next guy beneath him just because he decided to stay in the league another year due to the current people declared for the NFL draft. Quinn could have left last year and still been a first round pick, but would he have been picked over the likes of Young, Leinart, and Cutler, maybe Cutler.

On the same note, a guy with no experience can be leaving because he just is that good, and there is no reason not to take it to the next level. Young did this, and he proved himself as a gamewinner when he finally got the chance to start last season.

Not disagreeing with your experience arguement, just stirring the kettle.
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Old 03-19-2007, 09:25 AM   #7
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Re: How good will JaMarcus Russell be at the Pro Level?

The love of Russell is perplexing to me. But the more I look at him and all the available draft info/rumors/speculation I am wondering where this guy really stands as a draft prospect from the standpoint of the league in general.

We all know that everyone expects the Raiders are enamored with him. It seems everyone bases this thought on Oakland's draft history pretty much exclusively. As far as I know the Raiders have not said word one about Russell. With that being said, is this a case of a player getting overvalued by league experts because they expect him to be taken by the Raiders? If we could go back in time 5 or 6 weeks and remove Oakland from the entire process I think undoubtedly no one would be talking about Russell as the first pick. Would he even be a top ten guy? Something tells me that he is a lot closer to Jason Campbell in terms of talent than he is to say McNabb. That is, his immediate impact is probably limited and his long term impact is not certain. A QB in the top 10 of the draft to me needs to look and feel like a stud. Not a 'maybe' stud.

Why this overvalue?

Well certainly some of it is Johnny Come Latelys who just like to look smart and predict the draft. But I wonder if a high percentage of this Russell hyping is a result of pumping him up. Why would anyone NOT want the Raiders to take him at 1? If, like I believe, a good amount teams probably project Russell as a late 1st rounder then it is to their advantage to have him taking too high. It is a loss of value and therefore a potentail gain for them.

Of course there are too many 'experts' who are too dumb or oblivious to realize this and have just jumped on the bandwagon for Russell without realizing the level of disingenuosity. Voila, Russell is a top 10 pick.

I think it'll be very interesting to see where he goes if the Raiders work the Moss/Rodgers deal and end up taking Johnson instead. Someone will probably be dumb enough to have bought the hype but if not could he fall precipitously?
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Old 03-19-2007, 09:29 AM   #8
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Re: How good will JaMarcus Russell be at the Pro Level?

I still feel Russell is a better prospect then Brady Quinn who had a much softer schedule and never showed up in the big games.
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Old 03-19-2007, 09:29 AM   #9
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Re: How good will JaMarcus Russell be at the Pro Level?

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Originally Posted by CooleyFan47 View Post
On the same note, a guy with no experience can be leaving because he just is that good, and there is no reason not to take it to the next level. Young did this, and he proved himself as a gamewinner when he finally got the chance to start last season.
Young proved himself as a play maker. Really as a RB at QB. His successes as a QB were few and far between. In fact he looked less a QB than Vick looked like at the same point in his career. I think it still remains to be seen whether Young will ever be a quality QB in the NFL. I know there are many who don't think he will. The league's history is riddled with athletic play making QBs who never did a damn thing because they couldn't actually, you know, pass the ball. Young hasn't shown anyone he can actually pass the ball effectively. Far from it.
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Old 03-19-2007, 09:30 AM   #10
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Re: How good will JaMarcus Russell be at the Pro Level?

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Originally Posted by Daseal View Post
I still feel Russell is a better prospect then Brady Quinn who had a much softer schedule and never showed up in the big games.
I think you could be right.
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Old 03-19-2007, 09:35 AM   #11
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Re: How good will JaMarcus Russell be at the Pro Level?

I think Russell is really only going to be a product of the team he goes to, which unfortunately is looking like the Raiders. If they can provide some protection for him and Randy Moss stays, it could be a nice match.

As of now, Russell looks to me like someone who needs his receivers to make plays, rather than someone like Brady or Manning who make THEIR receivers look good.
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Old 03-19-2007, 10:16 AM   #12
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Re: How good will JaMarcus Russell be at the Pro Level?

the thing is a lot of the low start guys happened to go to awful teams. peyton, mcnabb, rivers, etc generally went to teams with good gms that now have a history of building great team talent (colts, eagles, chargers). campbell also has the advantage of a strong offense around him, and so it'd also be pretty disappointing if he can't put it together.
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Old 03-19-2007, 11:00 AM   #13
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Re: How good will JaMarcus Russell be at the Pro Level?

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Originally Posted by dmek25 View Post
I'm not entirely sold on Russell. could be another Dante Culpepper, with some NFL success. or could be another Akili Smith, who with Ryan Leaf formed the 2 biggest NFL busts ever
He's got D. Culpepper written all over him, the big difference is that unlike Dante he went to a big school & won a big bowl game in front of nat'l tv, hence the publicity before the draft.

I think the guy's a rare talent, but it's hard to tell if he has the presence & mental wherewithal to be great. He can definitely be good given the right circumstances, we'll have to see if the Raiders can improve that o-line first.

I honestly don't think he's going to have the success that our Jason Campbell will. Maybe I'm dreaming too much, but JC seems to have that undefinable ability that winning qb's have. I only see him becoming more of a leader, albeit a quiet one, and making big plays while not always racking up big #s. Looking back at the trade w/Denver, that was the best move Gibbs has made as Team Prez.
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Old 03-19-2007, 01:15 PM   #14
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Re: How good will JaMarcus Russell be at the Pro Level?

Everyone is in love with his physical skills. They are off the charts. The only question is will he be able to handle the larger playbooks, reading NFL defenses and have good decision making. Brady Quinn is ahead of him here becasue he got to play under Weiss and a true pro offense. Quinn is probably ready to play now more than anybody. But the draft is all about potential and no one has more of it than Russell. That is why he will be the number one pick.

One thing that scares me is the whole Oakland organization. It seems that they change coaches every other year. Is this guy from USC going to be able to handle a pro coaching job, command respect in the locker room and deal with starting a rookie QB in the NFL? Hell no. Horrible hire! This was probably the worst hire I have ever seen. Al Davis is such a dumb ass. So Russell will probably have a new coach in two years and he will have to learn a new offense every other year. I think Russell is in a no win situation going to Oakland. Plus they have one of the worst lines in the NFL. So IMO he is not going to do well becasue of the unstable organization. If Russell had the chance to learn under a Jon Gruden or Cam Cameron then I think he would be just fine.
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Old 03-19-2007, 01:50 PM   #15
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Re: How good will JaMarcus Russell be at the Pro Level?

I don't know how good Russell with be in the Pros, but nice post (yet again) GTripp.
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