Quinn or Russell?

JaMarcus Russell or Brady Quinn? That will be a question that will be debated for years as the latest QB heads-up match on draft day pits an athlete of prototype proportions with a quarterback who has shown a willingness to burn the midnight oil in preparation to get better. Who will win out? That depends. On draft day, likely Russell. But after that, who knows?

With less than three weeks remaining until the 2007 NFL draft, there still isn't a clear consensus as to how the top picks will pan out. Typically, by this time there has been a pecking order established. While there have been clear indications that by the time the Vikings pick at No. 7 wide receiver Calvin Johnson, offensive tackle Joe Thomas and defensive end Gaines Adams will likely be gone, the biggest talker of the draft prospects has been at quarterback.

It's not unusual to have two quarterbacks at the top of the draft list. In fact, it's been rather commonplace. Last year, there was Vince Young and Matt Leinart. The year before that, there was Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers. But this year's discussion about the draft prospect of JaMarcus Russell vs. Brady Quinn has been as intense and arguable as any QB debate in recent times. Why? Because the two players are so different.

When the debate came down between Young and Leinart, the main contention was whether Young's pure athleticism was put him over Leinart's NFL-readiness. In the end, it did and Young went with the third overall pick and Leinart slid down to the Cardinals. This time around, however, the contrasts between the top two quarterbacks are so great it's hard to believe they're competing with the same teams for a draft spot.

When it comes to pure athleticism, few if any quarterbacks of recent vintage are of Russell's peer group. When he does enter the league, he will be immediately anointed as having the strongest arm in the league. At 6-5, 260, Russell looks eerily similar in build to Daunte Culpepper when he joined the NFL. Unfortunately for Russell, he also carries some of the same concerns that followed Pepp into the NFL as well.

There's no questioning Russell's physical ability. He can throw a ball that seemingly has a steam trail coming off of it as well as flick a 30-yard sideline touch pass with ease – able to drop it in the bucket where only his receiver has a chance to catch it. But some scouts have asked whether he has given his full effort to lock down the No. 1 draft pick. He showed up at the Combine overweight and has never been what coaches would call a "student of the game." Much like Culpepper, he has got by on talent alone at the college level and has never taken the time to put in overtime to break down tape and learn how to read defenses and do the hours of prep work needed to be a top-notch NFL quarterback. The feeling is that he will need a hard-core coaching staff to harness his ability and force his nose to the books and film. The question then becomes, can a young, first-time head coach like Lane Kiffin be one to command that kind of respect? If not, the marriage between the Raiders and Russell could be fraught with problems from the start.

On the other side of the coin is Quinn. A two-year starter under Charlie Weis, Quinn propelled himself to the top of the draft with hard work. He is the most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft, works extremely hard to learn more and absorb as much information about opposing defenses as he can, can always be found in the weight room and leads by example. His only real drawbacks are that he missed the Senior Bowl and didn't work out at the Combine because of a knee injury and seemed to play his worst on the biggest stage during his career.

So the $50 million question becomes this: When will both of these talented players go off the board? There has been a slight rumble building that, if the Raiders weigh the pros and the cons of both quarterbacks together, they might opt to take Quinn over Russell. If Al Davis goes simply by physical ability – which is his history – Russell goes first. If that's the case, how long does Quinn stay on the board? If the Lions have any sense, they'll take him with the second pick, but if the team had any sense it would have fired Matt Millen in one of many legitimate opportunities to rid themselves of his poor decision making. The Lions have been the worst team in the NFL this decade, which is saying something since there have been a pair of franchises building from the expansion level during most if not all of that period.

So which will win out? Russell's athleticism and questionable work ethic or Quinn's lesser physical ability but 100 percent commitment to being a team leader? In the end, it will likely be Russell's cannon arm that wins out, but one thing Vikings fans should come to realize is that if they're looking at the possibility of one of them (Quinn) falling to No. 7 they may be kidding themselves. They should go 1-2, but as the draft draws near, there may be a growing support that Quinn might be the better pro and Russell could be the next Culpepper – a player full of unfulfilled potential.

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