The Oakland Raiders have endured a ton of mockery for the drastic failure that was JaMarcus Russell. The Raiders wasted the number one pick in the draft and spent millions of dollars on a guy who was too busy chugging purple drank and eating everything in sight, to actually put in any work.
However, the thing that many forget is that Russell was no Darrius Heyward-Bey. When the Raiders picked DHB, there was almost universal disapproval for the pick. The top two wide receivers were still available and DHB was graded to be picked much later. With Russell, however, most agreed that not only was he a top five pick, but that he was the smart pick for the Raiders at the time.
Now, the former coach of a very successful drafting team has come out and stated that they gave JaMarcus Russell the highest draft grade of any player in his time as an NFL head coach.
Brian Billick, former coach of the Baltimore Ravens came out and told the media that they too, were infatuated with JaMarcus Russell, stating that he was graded higher than any player they had looked at in the NFL draft during his nine years as the head coach.
The Ravens had no chance of drafting Russell since they did not pick until number 29 in the first round and had Steve McNair and back up Kyle Boller still on the team. But, it is not uncommon for teams to grade out players they will not likely draft. In Russell, the Ravens saw a talent worth analyzing and in doing so, saw a player better than any other they had looked at before.
This just goes to show that the JaMarcus Russel disaster in Oakland is not one that should be blamed on poor drafting by the Raiders. Rather, it was simply bad luck. Had another team been the number one pick in that draft, there was a very high probability they would have taken Russell. And even if the first pick chose Calvin Johnson, Russell surely would have been off of the board in the top five.
The NFL Draft is always a gamble, and just like in Vegas, sometimes you have to pay severely for a bad bet, even if the odds makers agreed with your bet.