The debate about the top two quarterbacks in this year's NFL Draft has raged on for months, and it appears that LSU's JaMarcus Russell has the edge on most teams' boards over Notre Dame's Brady Quinn.
But to really break down the decision, here's the question most scouts and fans should ask themselves: Do you take the raw, rising player with the eye-opening arm or the experienced passer who had 46 career starts in college?
|JaMarcus Russell started soaring up draft boards after being the Sugar Bowl MVP. (US Presswire)|
Quinn, a four-year starter, is the experienced passer from the glamour school who has all those career starts and an amazing touchdown-interception ratio the past two years of nearly 5-to-1.
"There's always a risk with these Johnny-come-lately guys," said one AFC personnel director. "We've seen it before with guys like Akili Smith. There is something to be said for starting experience. That has to be a concern when you look at Russell. Why did it take him so long?"
Smith came on strong in his senior season at Oregon, showing off a cannon for an arm, and was drafted third overall in the 1999 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, despite having just 11 starts on his college resume. He proved to be a major bust and is no longer in the league.
Ryan Leaf, the second player taken behind Peyton Manning in the 1998 draft, is considered perhaps the biggest quarterback bust of them all. He is out of the league, while Manning led the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory last season.
The year the two came out scouts were split between them. Maybe this would have helped decide the better player. College starts: Manning 46, Leaf 24.
Who will be a better NFL quarterback?
Total Votes: 19,514
That isn't to say the number of starts make the passer because there have been plenty of three-year starters who have flopped. But it has to mean something.
Russell started 29 games at LSU and had a touchdown-interception ratio of 2.47 to 1, throwing 52 touchdown passes against 21 interceptions. Quinn's touchdown-interception ratio was 2.43, throwing 95 touchdowns to 39 interceptions. A better gauge, since Quinn started as a freshman and sophomore, would be to compare the last two seasons.
Russell threw 43 touchdown passes against 17 interceptions for a 2.52 ratio. Quinn threw 69 touchdown passes against 14 interceptions for a 4.92 ratio, which is amazing.
Yet it's Quinn who has spent the past three months being picked apart bit-by-bit by the NFL scouts, while Russell has emerged as the consensus choice to be the No. 1 pick by the Oakland Raiders on Saturday.
Some say it's a done deal, but word is that's not exactly the case. Over the weekend there was talk in league circles that the Raiders are interested in a possible trade for Dolphins quarterback Daunte Culpepper, which would lead them to draft Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson with the first pick. Johnson is regarded as the cleanest player in the draft. The word is that Raiders owner Al Davis is reluctant to play the waiting game to see a rookie quarterback develop into a playoff-quality starter. He has told some he wants it now.
Raiders coach Lane Kiffin may be new to this NFL thing, which includes the evaluation of draft picks, but he might have offered a hint about Russell at the NFL owners meetings in March.
Amid all the praise and hype and soaring draft stock going Russell's way, which has triggered one of the fastest rises up the draft board we've seen at the quarterback position in a long time, Kiffin brought some levity to the situation and reminded us that a big arm might look good, but what does it really mean?
"He can go way over there and throw the ball 70 yards back over there," Kiffin said. "That's real exciting, but how many times does that happen a year? About two in 16 games? That's a scout's dream to have a guy like that, but you have to dig deeper than that because that doesn't happen that much."
|Brady Quinn? Overrated? Four years as a Notre Dame starter suggest otherwise. (US Presswire)|
Russell was impressive, too, his self-confidence shining through. His size, 6-foot-6, 265 pounds, was what really made him stand out. He looked like a defensive end.
Both quarterbacks have things that the scouts love. But both have things they don't.
"I don't think either one of them will pull a Dan Marino and become a star in their first season," said one NFC scout. "They both have flaws. Russell has the arm and the size, but he makes some bad decisions. Quinn didn't always perform well in big games. He also had a lot of help from his receivers at Notre Dame. Look at some of this throws. He just threw it up and they made plays on it against some bad corners."
Some scouts and media members insist that Quinn is the most-overrated player in this draft, a product of the Notre Dame-hype machine. Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, a former offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, has told anyone and everyone that he can be the next Brady.
That's high praise, which is why the doubters insists he's over-hyped. That is a bit much, but the way he plays, the way he conducts himself and the feel for the game Quinn has do bring up images of Brady.
The two have spoken on the phone several times because of their relationships with Weis.
"The first couple of times I talked to him, he was more trying to help me from the shell shock I was probably going to get from some of Coach Weis' first rippings," Quinn said. "So that was helpful. But then the more we got into it, the more he just talked about ‘Hey, it's simple. Just be yourself. Keep doing what you've done to get you where you are. Don't change. Don't allow what people say to change your work ethic, the way you do every day and how you think about yourself because you deep down you're a good player. Whatever you've done to get to this point is only going to lead you to greater things in the future.' I really can't thank him enough for everything he's really helped me with."
Quinn has openly campaigned to be the top pick, but it looks like he's lost that race. Russell, for his part, has maintained a lower profile when it comes to being the top pick.
"To tell you the truth, my main thing is just getting an opportunity to go out and showcase my skills of football at the next level," Russell said. "There really won't be any disappointment because everybody doesn't get a chance to go as high as No. 1 or No. 2. I'll be more than happy, whatever position I go in."
He appears to be the top dog for now.
Time will tell if he's another in the Johnny-come-lately college passers who struggles on the next level or if all that talent will make him the next great quarterback.