Me First! No, Me! (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday February 27, 2007 9:06AM; Updated: Tuesday February 27, 2007 4:56PM
For much of the past year Quinn, a four-year starter for the Fighting Irish, has been the odds-on favorite to be the draft's first pick. But he played poorly in bad losses to highly ranked Michigan and USC. Meanwhile, Russell, a starter for two-plus seasons, performed better than Quinn against top competition as a junior in 2006 and proved to be a more accurate intermediate and deep thrower. Russell's higher completion percentage last fall, .678 to Quinn's .619,takes on added significance when combined with the fact that his average gain per attempt was significantly higher (9.1 yards to 7.3) than Quinn's.
When Notre Dame and LSU squared off in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 3, it was no contest: Russell ran the Tigers' offense to perfection -- 21 for 34, a career-high 332 yards and two touchdowns passing, plus another TD rushing -- and LSU rolled, 41-14. Quinn, who was chased all over the Superdome for four quarters, looked jittery and struggled (15 for 35, 148 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions). "You can't judge a book by one page," Quinn said with a stiff upper lip in Indy. "Hopefully NFL teams will read the whole book on me."
They will, but the first pick is Russell's to lose heading into his March 14 workout on the LSU campus. Quinn will work out for NFL teams on March 4 and 22 in South Bend. As is customary for projected top choices, neither player threw at the combine. Both were weighed and measured and had interviews with individual teams. Quinn chose to bench-press; he blew away the rest of the quarterback class with a guardlike 24 reps of 225 pounds (which would mean something if pressing strong safeties was part of a quarterback's job).
Everyone knows Raiders boss Al Davis loves the deep ball, and Russell will enter the NFL with one of the strongest arms ever. Taking one normal step, he has thrown the ball 82 yards. With downfield threats Randy Moss and Jerry Porter likely to remain in Oakland next fall and with a porous offensive line, the Raiders are desperate for a quarterback who can get off the long pass and take a hit. Russell is this draft's prototype for the durable bomber. And his hands are some of the biggest ever measured at a combine. "When he grips the ball," said Vikings VP of player personnel Rick Spielman, "he makes it look like one of those Nerf footballs."
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