JAMARCUS RUSSELL took up a lot ofspace behind the podium on Friday.
JAMARCUS RUSSELL took up a lot of space behind the podium on Friday. (MICHAEL CONROY -- AP)
INDIANAPOLIS — THE NEXT BIG thing is even bigger than advertised.

Try a shade over 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds. If JaMarcus Russell ends up wearing silver and black as the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, the Raiders will be living large.

Imagine tight end Courtney Anderson under center.

"When I saw JaMarcus Russell's hand around a ball, it looked like he had a little Nerf ball like my 9-year-old plays with," Minnesota vice president of pro personnel Rick Spielman said. "His fingers wrapped around it twice, I think."

The word in the many hallways of the Indiana Convention Center is that Al Davis won't be able to pass up the most-talked-about and unique talent in the 2007 NFL draft.

"They're taking him," one NFL executive said. "They need a quarterback, and he's the one they'll take. I'll be stunned if they do anything else."from Sports 1

Because Russell won't throw or participate in any drills, his weight — about 10 pounds more than expected — was a topic of discussion in an environment prone to overanalysis.

"He was a little soft around the middle," one personnel man said.

"People were surprised how big he was," 49ers personnel director Scot McCloughan said.

Russell won't throw for scouts until March 14 at LSU at his pro day. Neither Russell nor Notre Dame's Brady Quinn, the other potential top five pick at the position, will work out or throw for scouts at the RCA Dome, a policy which has been consistent with top quarterbacks in previous combines.


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They will participate in medical tests, interviews and get screened for drugs.

Russell, wearing a knit cap and speaking softly with a Southern accent, met with the assembled media Friday and said agent Eric Metz thought it best that he keep his arm under wraps for now.

"My agents made that decision," Russell said. "I'm pretty sure they made the best decision for me, to wait."

Asked if he had heard from the Raiders yet, Russell said, "no sir."

The Raiders have long been known for their "off the bus" theory of assessing talent. They want to look imposing and intimidating getting off the bus. Russell qualifies.

"He's huge. He could be a tight end, a defensive end or a power forward," Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky said. "They say he's 6-5, but he looks taller."

Russell burst upon the national consciousness in the Sugar Bowl, completing 21 of 34 passes for 332 yards in a 41-14 rout of Notre Dame. He elected to enter the draft rather play his senior year.

He says he can throw the ball "83 or 84 yards." Russell has tremendous velocity on routes that require power and a surprisingly feathery touch on sideline routes and fades.

"He gets the ball out easy, throws a tight spiral and has tremendous arm strength getting the ball down the field," McCloughan said. "What's unique with him is he shows excellent touch down the field on the 15- and 20-yard ball. You just can't teach that. Either you have it, or you don't."

Russell's powerful arm is attached to a body that enables him to get off passes and avoid sacks. While not a runner, he has adequate athletic skill in the pocket.

"It's a lot of fun when you've got big guys trying to tackle you, and you're not falling," Russell said. "You're still able to make plays. I'm bigger than most of the guys out there."

The only thing that might be bigger than Russell's body and arm is the risk factor for the Raiders should they take him.

Last season's No.1 pick, defensive end Mario Williams, signed a six-year contract in which $26.5 million was guaranteed over the first two years. Contract talks with Russell, should he be the top pick, would start from there.

As Russell is not one to show a lot of outward emotion, there are those who wonder about his work ethic and desire to be the best. The extra 10 pounds serve as fuel for his detractors.

Drafting quarterbacks is risky business. The Indianapolis Colts won a Super Bowl because in 1998 they took Peyton Manning instead of Ryan Leaf. Colts exec Bill Polian admits to this day it wasn't an easy choice.

Leaf, a disaster as the No.2 pick with the San Diego Chargers, had character flaws and issues regarding dedication. 

Russell makes no apologies for his demeanor.

"This is me," Russell said. "I've always been a laid-back guy. Everybody has opinions on what you can and cannot do. You've just got to take it and run with it."

At the same time, he thinks interviews with the top teams in the draft will reveal something else as well.

"(They'll find) that I'm a competitor. When the game is on the line, I'm very reliable," Russell said. "I'm a team player. I'm just there to win and be able to help my teammates, put them in a position to make plays."

NFL Editor Jerry McDonald can be reached by e-mail at jmcdonald@angnewspapers.com