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Just The Sports: JaMarcus Russell As The Test Case

Just The Sports

Monday, January 08, 2007

JaMarcus Russell As The Test Case

As the NFL draft approaches, LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell will be the test case for which aspect of a college player scouts put more stock in: physical attributes or college productivity. Already, as talk about Russell inevitably revolves around his size (6'6, 260 lbs.) and his incredible arm strength, evidenced by his ability to launch a football eighty-five yards in the air, I suspect scouts are more likely to invest their paychecks in a player's physical prowess. While this feat of fast-twitch muscle fiber is impressive, there are not that many 85-yard pass attempts in the NFL so there is more to being a successful quarterback than that.

Should any NFL team decide to draft an SEC quarterback this year, they can do worse than drafting Russell. However, should a team choose to draft a quarterback this year, they can do better than the quarterback from LSU. He is not the best quarterback who will declare himself for the NFL draft. Nor is he the second-best. In my estimation, he is the third-best quarterback the 2007 draft has to offer, behind Ohio State's Troy Smith and BYU's John Beck.

The reason why I place Russell behind these two other quarterbacks has nothing to do with his overall completion percentage, which is not statistically significantly worse than Smith's and Beck's. What causes me to pause in evaluating Russell and thinking of him as a future NFL star is his lack of consistency when it comes to completing passes. Of the seven draft-eligible quarterbacks I have looked at this season (Drew Stanton, Brady Quinn, Drew Tate, Troy Smith, Chris Leak, John Beck, and JaMarcus Russell), Russell has the highest standard deviation when it comes to completion percentage, meaning that while the overall completion percentage of 62.0% is above-average, it does not inspire the confidence it should because there is no guarantee he will be able to complete that percentage of passes on a game to game basis.

Based on this fact, I would recommend NFL teams evince prudence when thinking about drafting JaMarcus Russell.



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