Raiders bottom picks: JaMarcus Russell

May, 15, 2014
May 15
8:00
AM ET
So, by the time the smoke clears in two or three years, where will the likes of Khalil Mack and Derek Carr land when it comes time to account for the best and worst Oakland Raiders draft picks in franchise history?

Before the draft, we concluded our best Raiders draft picks with Marcus Allen landing at the top spot. But on our other list, the one that includes those whose names must not be mentioned, we only got to No. 2.

As such, our countdown of the worst Raiders draft picks since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger concludes with, yup, quarterback JaMarcus Russell closing things out at No. 1.

Russell
QB JaMarcus Russell (LSU, first round, No. 1 overall in 2007)

Who else was available? WR Calvin Johnson, RB Adrian Peterson, LB Patrick Willis

You were expecting someone else?

Really, this was as telegraphed as badly as Russell was at taking accountability. Thing is, it’s hard to blame the Raiders for picking him in the first place. Russell was the consensus No. 1 pick, the next John Elway, a huge athlete with a cannon for an arm.

But it was a bad marriage from the start. Russell held out as a rookie and did not join the team until after the season began, signing a six-year, $68 million contract. He did not play until December and did not start a game until the season finale.

In fact, an argument could be made the decision to draft Russell was the wedge between owner Al Davis and rookie coach Lane Kiffin, though those two had many issues. For example, one of Kiffin’s plans was to use that No. 1 overall pick on Calvin Johnson, and then come back in the second or third round and draft Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards. Alas ...

Russell was the unquestioned starter in 2008, even if questions began to grow about his commitment as a franchise quarterback. There would be flashes of his talent but they would fade away as tales of his off-the-field partying ways grew, along with his waistline.

By 2009, Russell was benched by Tom Cable in favor of Bruce Gradkowski and, with his personal life in freefall after his uncle died, Russell reportedly weighed 300 pounds following the season. The Raiders, who had acquired Jason Campbell during the 2010 NFL draft, had enough and Davis pulled the cord and cut Russell, who Davis had earlier defended to Kiffin as a “great player.”

Two months later, Russell’s long-rumored association with “Purple Drank” was confirmed when he was arrested for possession of a controlled substance -- codeine syrup -- without a valid prescription.

Russell, who made about $36 million from the Raiders, later told ESPN that he had tested positive for codeine after Oakland drafted him. And after the money seemingly dried up, Russell attempted a comeback with Jeff Garcia serving as his personal coach. But after the Raiders, who wanted more than $9 million back from him, reportedly settled for about $3 million, Russell’s “comeback” ended.

In all, Russell was 7-18 as a starter, completing 52.1 percent of his passes for 4,083 yards with 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in 31 games.

The biggest bust in Raiders history? Russell is the biggest bust in NFL history ... so far.

Bottom 5-plus Raiders draft picks since 1970 merger

Dishonorable mentions

No. 5: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey

No. 4: DE Bob Buczkowski

No. 3: MLB Rolando McClain

No. 2: OT John Clay

No. 1: QB JaMarcus Russell

Top 5-plus Raiders draft picks since 1970 merger

Honorable mentions

No. 5: WR Cliff Branch

No. 4: P Ray Guy

No. 3: TE Dave Casper

No. 2: DE Howie Long

No. 1: RB Marcus Allen

Paul Gutierrez

ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter

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