JaMarcus Russell's Comeback Journey Will Be Aided by Weak NFL Draft QB Class

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2013

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 18:  JaMarcus Russell #2 of the Oakland Raiders passes against the Philadelphia Eagles during an NFL game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 18, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Former Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell hasn't played a down in the NFL since the 2009 season, but he is aiming to return to the NFL. The 2013 draft's weak quarterback class should help his cause significantly.

Russell's story is a well-documented one of wasted talent. He was drafted No. 1 overall by the Raiders out of LSU in 2007 and held out through training camp. Russell never seemed to gain his footing after that, as he struggled to hang on to the starting job in 2008 and ultimately fizzled.

Due a sizable roster bonus owed following the 2009 season, the Raiders released Russell, but he never caught on with another team. A big reason for that was likely his arrest for possession of codeine syrup in 2010.

Russell announced his intention to make a comeback in January and he has made good on that promise thus far. While NFL teams reportedly want Russell to lose more weight before signing him, he has already dropped 34 pounds and is making some real progress under the tutelage of former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia.

Russell's current comeback attempt shows his determination and maturity. He certainly seems committed, and with quarterbacks at such a premium in the NFL today, he should get a shot somewhere.

Some might argue that the 2013 NFL draft will hinder his chances of landing a job, but the quarterback class is much weaker than usual, so Russell could look more attractive to teams that don't want to waste a pick on an uncertain quarterback prospect.

While it's unlikely, it's certainly possible that no quarterbacks will be selected in the first round. Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib and Matt Barkley are considered to be the best prospects by most, with the likes of E.J. Manuel and Mike Glennon also figuring into the equation. None of them has broken away from the pack and none appears to be a surefire star in the pros.

Russell has already tried and failed, but he is only 27 years old and the Raiders once thought enough of him to make him the top pick in a draft that included studs such as Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis and Darrelle Revis.

If Russell is able to get himself into sufficient shape and prove that he still has the tools that made him such an attractive prospect six years ago, he definitely has a chance to catch on somewhere. That isn't to say that Russell will get an opportunity to start, but simply earning a spot on a roster would be a huge accomplishment at this point based on what he has gone through over the past few years.

The fact that Russell is still only 27 years old is of the utmost importance in this situation. The Cleveland Browns were willing to invest a first-round pick in now-29-year-old Brandon Weeden last year, and while some might agree that it was an ill-advised selection, Russell is two years younger than him despite being out of the league for three years.

Russell is at an age when most athletes are reaching their prime, and he appears to be in better shape now than he has been in quite some time. That isn't to say that he will suddenly fulfill his potential and become a star in the league, but there may be less risk involved with taking a chance on Russell than drafting a quarterback this year.

While Russell must continue to work hard and prove that his issues are behind him, he is in an advantageous position right now and is bound to find his way back in the NFL by the time training camp starts.


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