NFL DRAFT: Russell was easy choice for Raiders at No. 1 Print
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Saturday, 28 April 2007 09:50
NFL Headline News

 ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) -The debate about the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft ended for Raiders coach Lane Kiffin as soon as he sat down and talked with JaMarcus Russell.
As impressed with Russell's leadership as he was with his spectacular play at LSU, Kiffin chose Russell as the player to rebuild the Raiders around.
``There was no doubt in our mind this was the direction we wanted to go,'' Kiffin said Saturday. ``This is someone who's coming in here to compete to play. We know from what we've seen on film and when we've met with him and all the research we've done, going back to when he was extremely young, that this is someone who can come in and help us win games.''
Russell was the choice over Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson and Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. He was the first quarterback the Raiders have taken in the first round since drafting Todd Marinovich with the 24th pick in 1991.
The Raiders had passed on Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler in recent years but felt Russell was too good to pass up. Kiffin said he'd compete with Andrew Walter for the starting job right away but put no timetable on when he expected Russell to win the job.
Walter, a third-round pick in 2005, is the only quarterback on the roster with NFL experience although he struggled when he got his chance last season. He completed just 53.3 percent of his passes and threw three touchdown passes. He also threw 13 interceptions, lost nine fumbles and was sacked 46 times.
``I just want to go in and be prepared to compete for the job first off,'' Russell said. ``It's a great chance and opportunity for me to go out and try to prove myself and compete for the job. Whether it's right now or I sit behind a guy and push him through practice for however long it takes, I'm just ready to go and compete.''
The Raiders are counting on a lot from Russell, whose impressive physical tools had scouts salivating. Russell stands 6-foot-6, 263 pounds, is mobile and can throw the ball 80 yards. Kiffin said Russell can make throws he's only seen made on video games.
Russell went 25-4 and as LSU's starting quarterback, capping his career by throwing for 332 yards and two TDs in a 41-14 Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame. While that game increased Russell's prominence leading into the draft, it played only a little role in the Raiders' choice to draft him.
``It seems like people really started to recognize that after the bowl game, when I'd been doing that all along,'' Russell said.
The biggest questions about Russell heading into the draft were about his work ethic and leadership skills, doubts Kiffin put to rest with his face-to-face meetings and watching how he interacted with his college teammates.
``The film made it great, made it real easy,'' Kiffin said. ``But it's more than the film. He has to lead this offense, he has to lead this team. That's what the quarterback does. ... When you went down to the pro day and you watched him work out and you watched the players around him before he worked out, and how they responded to him, it was very obvious that this guy is a natural leader.''
Oakland scored just 12 offensive touchdowns last season, allowed 72 sacks and scored just 168 points - the fifth fewest in a 16-game season.
The team has made some improvements on the offense, signing running back Dominic Rhodes and offensive lineman Cooper Carlisle, Jeremy Newberry and Cornell Green, but there still is plenty of work needed to do.
``I feel that was then and this is now,'' Russell said. ``This is a new year coming up and I can't wait to get in and work with the guys, just show them I'm ready to work. And I want them to work as well, so we can get some things changed around. It's part of a process, but we got to go through that process starting out this year.''
Kiffin also acknowledged he's held talks with other teams about a possible trade of disgruntled wide receiver Randy Moss. New England and Green Bay are the teams most interested in acquiring the former Pro Bowl receiver, who has struggled in two seasons with Oakland.
Moss, who made five Pro Bowls in seven seasons with Minnesota, has 102 catches for 1,558 yards and 11 touchdowns with the Raiders. He expressed a desire to be traded last season and has not participated in any of Oakland's offseason workouts or minicamps .
``We have had a number of calls about Randy and we've fielded those calls and had conversations but I'm not going to go any further than this because that's not what this day is about,'' Kiffin said.
From Russell's perspective, he'd like to have a player like Moss to throw to. If the Raiders deal him, they'd be left with Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry and Doug Gabriel as their top wide receivers.
``He is still Randy Moss,'' Russell said. ``It's going to be exciting to go one-on-one with each other. I just can't wait to get in and get the opportunity to do that.''
 

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