Why JaMarcus Russell is the Biggest NFL Bust of All Time

Published on January 5th, 2024 7:48 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

‘Oakland Forget Ryan Leaf - there is no question that JaMarcus Russell, formerly of the Oakland Raiders, is the biggest NFL draft bust of all time.

Sure, Ryan Leaf was terrible, but he wasn't the #1 overall pick, which excludes him from this conversation.

JaMarcus Russell was terrible as well, and was taken first overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2007 NFL Draft.


JaMarcus Russell was electric as the starting quarterback of LSU in college.

After redshirting, Russell saw a good deal of action as a freshman in 2004, completing 73 passes for 1,053 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Russell was the clear starter heading into the 2005 season, where he threw for 2,443 yards and 15 touchdowns.

In his final season at LSU, Russell threw for 3,129 yards and 28 passing touchdowns, solidifying himself as one of the top quarterbacks in all of college football.

Russell would be named first-team All-SEC in 2006.


Russell may not have been the most talented quarterback in the 2007 NFL Draft, though his size and arm strength had scouts salivating.

Russell was 6'5 1/2 and weighed in at 265 pounds. Russell also ran an impressive 40-yard dash in 4.72 seconds.

The Raiders had the first overall pick and decided to take Russell, a potentially franchise-altering quarterback, if he could live up to his potential.


Things got off to a rocky start in Oakland, as Russell held out through all of training camp and the first week of the regular season.

Russell eventually inked a 6-year deal worth up to $68 million, with over $30 million guaranteed.

Russell, however, was badly behind and out of shape, so he did not immediately start.


Russell would see some spotty action in his first season with the Raiders, as he ended up completing 36 passes for 373 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions over the course of the year.

Lane Kiffin, the coach of the Raiders at the time, was unequivocal at the end of the 2007 season - Russell would be starting in 2008.


2008 was just OK for JaMarcus Russell, as he would start 15 games for the Oakland Raiders, throwing for 2,423 yards, 13 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.

The Raiders were certainly hoping to see more out of Russell, as the team finished 5-10 with Russell as the starter.


Russell was also named the starter heading into 2009, though this is the year where the wheels really fell off.

Russell was absolutely putrid, throwing for just three touchdowns and 11 interceptions over the course of the year. The team was awful, going 2-7 in their first nine games of the year - eventually the new coach, Tom Cable, had seen enough, as he benched JaMarcus Russell in favor of Bruce Gradkowski.

After seeing sporadic action over the rest of 2009 (mainly due to injuries), Russell soon found himself in third on the depth chart.

The number one overall pick was in deep trouble of fading off into obscurity.


Did JaMarcus Russell double down on his offseason work in order to win back the starting job?

Did JaMarcus Russell hire a former QB to elevate his game?

Did JaMarcus Russell work on his diet in order to come to camp in the best shape ever?

None of the above.

Instead, Russell arrived at training camp in 2010 dramatically overweight. Some reports had Russell weighing as much as 300 pounds.

The Raiders would trade for QB Jason Campbell, which meant that the team had five quarterbacks on their roster.

Russell would be released a short time later, and would never play in the NFL again.


It's hard to imagine any #1 overall pick underwhelming the league more than JaMarcus Russell did, and his position as the biggest draft bust in the history of the league still hasn't been challenged.

Related Articles