When NFL Network compiled its list of the Top 10 draft busts in league history, Ryan Leaf came in first.
Some day they’ll update that list, and JaMarcus Russell may just supplant Leaf in the top spot.
If the reports out today that Russell will be released are correct, the historical record will show that the Raiders spent the first pick in the draft on a player who provided them with 25 starts and completed 354 of 680 passes (52.1%) for 4,083 yards, with 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Russell was sacked 70 times and fumbled 25 times.
For the most part Leaf’s numbers with the San Diego Chargers were even worse than that, which might lead some to conclude that Russell can’t be a bigger bust than Leaf (even though, if reports that he weighs 300 pounds are true, he has a bigger bust than Leaf).
But Leaf was the second overall pick in 1998. Russell was the first overall pick in 2007. There have been quarterbacks picked first overall who turned out to be bad, but none so spectacularly bad as Russell.
Leaf recently told the Los Angeles Times, “I used to go to bed at night hoping somebody else like Heath Shuler might magically leapfrog me on those all-time bust lists. It never happened. Why? Because I am No. 1. I can’t even think of anyone else in the ballpark that might be close to my combination of disappointment and failed expectations.”
Russell is in the ballpark now.