The NFL Draft Day anticipation was eating at everyone. As mock draft after mock draft blared across the television screens of millions of people across the nation, football fans waited with bated breath as Saturday afternoon approached. And finally, zero hour was upon us.
With the first overall pick in the 2007 National Football League Draft, the Oakland Raiders selected LSU’s JaMarcus Russell to be their quarterback of the future. The Oakland Raiders decided to pass on other top prospects like Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn and Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson, as well as their option to trade the number one pick. Leading up to the draft, the Raiders considered giving up the top selection. ESPN’s Mel Kiper said before the draft that Oakland was only 80% sure they would stay pat with their selection. But it is hard to turn down the leadership that a man like Russell brings to a football team. He was the 2005 SEC player of the year, a 2006 First-team all SEC selection, and he was the 2007 Most Valuable Player of the Sugar Bowl in January.
JaMarcus Russell was elated to be taken first overall, but said in the draft pre-game show that he “wanted to be surprised” before being selected by any NFL team. Whether or not Russell would go number one wasn’t a lock until Oakland submitted their selection. Numerous analysts have been quoted in the previous weeks as saying “Anyone who doesn’t take Calvin Johnson in this draft is making a mistake.” The Raiders already have a star wide-receiver in Pro Bowler Randy Moss, and they are in desperate need of a QB that can throw the ball to him accurately. Russell now fills that void. JaMarcus can throw the ball over 80 yards in the air, over 60 yards from his knees, and over 40 yards sitting down. This type of arm strength will allow the Raiders to stretch the field on offense next season.
The 6’5” 250+ lb. behemoth of a man will likely start for the ailing Raiders squad next season, considering he will be signing an over $60 million contract in the coming weeks. Last year’s number one pick, Mario Williams, a defensive end, signed a deal with the Houston Texans worth over $62 million, with $26.5 million guaranteed. The number two pick in 2006, USC’s running back Reggie Bush, inked a similar deal with only slightly less guaranteed money. As is the trend with a growing salary cap in the NFL, this year’s first pick will likely get more than Williams did. In fact, the 2005 number one selection Alex Smith was signed by the San Francisco 49’ers for only $49.5 million, with only $24 million guaranteed. This means that Russell could get a contract offer in the upper $60-70 million dollar range, with possibly as much as $30 million guaranteed.
The last quarterback that the Raiders selected in the first round, Andrew Walter in 2005, has won only two games for the team in his time spent there. Russell certainly hopes he can be more successful than his predecessor. The former Louisiana State University quarterback is relieved that the waiting game is over and he can begin working towards his ultimate goal- becoming a star in the NFL.
Sources: Profootballweekly.com, jamarcusrussell.org