Commentary

Russell singled out, but not alone

Raiders bust not only disappointment in '07 first round that had good, bad and ugly

Originally Published: May 11, 2010
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

JaMarcus RussellCary Edmondson/US PresswireJaMarcus Russell, the No. 1 overall pick in 2007, was released by the Raiders on May 6.

Last week's release of quarterback JaMarcus Russell by the Oakland Raiders represented one of the greatest concessions in recent NFL history.

It was an embarrassing but tacit admission by the team that it had erred egregiously and that the former LSU star simply can't play. And it ranked as one of the most graphic representations of the draft as a high-stakes crapshoot.

But it was also an expensive reminder of just how unpredictable the first round of any draft can be in general, and particularly how uneven the 2007 lottery has been after only three seasons.

Oakland paid more than $39 million in three seasons to Russell, the top overall selection in 2007, and he certainly failed to deliver on that pricey investment. But fueled by the failure of the rocket-armed but seemingly dispassionate Russell -- who in three years was 8-17 as a starter and became the top overall pick cut earliest by a team since the common draft was implemented in 1967 -- the first round of the 2007 draft is regarded by general managers and personnel directors as spotty at best.

"Some hits, some misses, like always … but having the first guy [Russell] cut after only three years probably makes things look worse," said Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.

Noted one NFC personnel director: "The Russell thing probably makes it look even worse than it really is -- you don't see No. 1 picks cut that often -- but even without that, yeah, it's still pretty mixed. … I'm sure, with what we know now, some teams would love to have a do-over."

Certainly there have been some tremendous players produced by the '07 first round. Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas (No. 3 overall) was voted to the Pro Bowl as a rookie and has made three trips to the all-star game. Despite his fumbling woes, Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson (No. 7) rates among the top five running backs in the league. San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis (No. 11) is a three-time Pro Bowl defender, and last week signed a $50 million extension.

Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis (No. 14) is arguably the NFL's premier pass defender, and Bengals corner Leon Hall (No. 18) is one of the league's rising stars and registered six interceptions last season. Calvin Johnson (No. 2) is one of the top young wideouts in the game. And middle linebacker Jon Beason (No. 25), who has two Pro Bowl trips, is a tackling machine who some observers feel is the best player in the NFC South.

Those players represent the good from the 2007 first round, but there is plenty of bad and ugly to go around too.

Four players from the '07 first round -- the late defensive end Gaines Adams (No. 4), wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (No. 9), defensive tackle Adam Carriker (No. 13) and quarterback Brady Quinn (No. 22) -- bombed with their original franchises and have been traded. Tailback Marshawn Lynch (No. 12), safety Reggie Nelson (No. 21) and tight end Greg Olsen (No. 31) have been rumored at various times over the past few months to be on the trade block.

That's a lot of attrition after only three seasons, and there probably is more to come.

Russell is inarguably the poster child for first-round picks from 2007 that went bad. There are a few other players from the first round that year, however, who could merit having their mug shots on the sides of milk cartons. Here are five 2007 first-rounders, in alphabetical order, who need to dramatically improve their play in '10:

DE Jamaal Anderson, Atlanta (No. 8): A starter since his rookie season with the Falcons (44 starts in all), but has failed to provide the strongside pass rush that the team envisioned when it drafted him. Strong enough against the run, but has only 2½ sacks in three years. Will have trouble retaining his starting job in 2010, and could be moved inside to tackle to try to salvage his career.

WR Craig Davis, San Diego (No. 30): Former LSU standout has been victimized by injuries, and only 10 of his career 30 receptions have come the past two years. Has started in only one of his 23 appearances.

WR Anthony Gonzalez, Indianapolis (No. 32): Unlike others on the list, he has been productive when he has played, but he has to overcome a right knee injury from first quarter of the 2009 opener. He was projected as starter then, but the injury scuttled that and opened the door for youngsters Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, who played well enough for the Colts to get to the Super Bowl. Has 94 career receptions, including 57 in 2008.

DT Justin Harrell, Green Bay (No. 16): Chronic back problems have limited former Tennessee star to 13 games and two starts. Has only 28 tackles, and has yet to notch his first sack. Seems like a poor fit at nose tackle in Green Bay's 3-4 scheme, and might have to play end.

DE/LB Jarvis Moss, Denver (No. 17): Chosen as outside, upfield pass-rusher at end, but projects now to rush linebacker in the 3-4, to which the Broncos converted in 2009. Suffered a broken right fibula as a rookie. Has only 3½ sacks in 25 games and one start. Rumored to have been dangled in trade talks last season.

Len Pasquarelli, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.