2011 NFL Draft: Is The Next JaMarcus Russell Lurking in this Draft Class?

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2011 NFL Draft: Is The Next JaMarcus Russell Lurking in this Draft Class?
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

According to a report on ESPN.com, JaMarcus Russell is being dumped again, this time by his "life coach" John Lucas.

When your life coach gives up on you, possibly because he doesn’t believe it's worth the time and effort, then you know you have been labeled a "lost cause."

Russell has not shown people he is committed to improving, losing/keeping off the weight and making a comeback in the NFL. It would be a nice story; the guy is only 25 years old, after all.

But it takes desire, and when a player doesn’t have it, why would teams want to take a risk? 

Teams might want to ponder this a bit before making selections in the first and second rounds of the upcoming draft—third and fourth rounds as well, since all of these picks are so tremendously valuable.

But the story of JaMarcus Russell is just too wild, right? It would be a stretch to think there is someone like him in this draft; a guy who combines raw, natural ability with a lazy and indifferent mode of existence.

Who are the ponzi schemes of this year’s draft? 

Here are some players to consider:

 

Nick Fairley, DT (Auburn)  

Fairley was graded the No. 1 DT before the combine, but has slipped so far that some wonder where he will land in the first round.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Many experts have dropped him on draft boards precisely because of his high-risk, high-reward label. He has the potential to be more of a force and talent than Warren Sapp, but he also has the potential to be Sapp-like with off-field issues.

Is he a basket case?

Does he take plays off?

Some draft analysts describe Fairley as incredibly talented, but also lazy and immature. He plays dirty, and money—not an enjoyment of the game—may be his real driving force.

This is all just speculation, but it comes from all his antics as a football player at Auburn. If it were not for these character issues, Fairley would likely be ranked ahead of Marcell Dareus and other DTs, but the concerns are real and nagging.  

Will he be boom or bust? That seems to be the real question with Fairley.

 

Jimmy Smith, CB (Colorado)

Smith is projected somewhere in the bottom part of the first round, possibly even the second, but he is unquestionably a top-five talent in this draft.

Yet somehow, he has tumbled on everyone’s draft board to the point that he is now being listed as the third best cornerback behind Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara.

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

I can understand the reasoning with Peterson, but Smith may be as equally skilled at playing coverage. In fact, Smith may be the best pure corner in this draft; Amukamara, in my estimation, does not compare.

Most scouts cite Smith’s incredible ability to stay so tightly on his man in coverage, disrupting routes and making plays impossible. He’s also a big cornerback with tremendous speed.

But Smith is also an immature player. He is like Darrelle Revis, but only when comparing physical abilities.

The comparison stops there because Revis is a committed athlete; committed to learning, adapting and working hard to be the best. By all indications Smith is nowhere near that. In fact, there are drug and alcohol-related concerns with him.

Might Smith reveal he is too immature for life in the NFL? As a fan of all things Colorado, I hope not. I hope a team takes a chance on him and reaps the benefits of having such a gifted athlete. But I understand the risks. 

 

Ryan Mallett, QB (Arkansas) 

Ryan Mallett just has this look about him.

He looks like a kid who knows how to have fun at the expense of being responsible and safe. It doesn’t help that Mallett, like Jimmy Smith, has been linked to drug use and too much partying. That reputation, however fair, has led to a relentless barrage of questioning by the media.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

At this point he seems agitated—and rightfully so—that so many people are questioning his character and ability to stay clean in the NFL. Sure, college is a blast. But there is no comparison to the life of an NFL quarterback, I would imagine.  

Mallett put up very impressive numbers at Arkansas, he has a huge arm and terrific leadership skills on the field, but what kind of player will he be off the field?

If not for these character concerns, Mallett might be the No. 2 ranked quarterback behind Cam Newton. He certainly has major upside because of what he can be in terms of pure passing skills, but I think teams have good reason to have Mallett pegged as a high-risk, high-reward kind of player.  

 

All three of these players—Nick Fairley, Jimmy Smith and Ryan Mallett—are guys that can be boom or bust at the next level.

Lets not wish poor luck on any team or player; hopefully all three prove the draft prognosticators wrong. 

But as the Oakland Raiders can attest, investing a lot of money, time and effort into a guy who turns out to be disinterested and bored with it all, well that’s a terrible gamble to take.

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