When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Jameis Winston with the number one overall pick in 2015, NFL.com released their power rankings of the previous 20 quarterback to be drafted with the number one pick. The bottom of the pile quite predictably was Raiders 2007 pick Jamarcus Russell. Having passed on Calvin Johnson and Joe Thomas, Russell was released after just 3 seasons.
At the other end of the list in number one was John Elway. Originally drafted by the Colts, twice Superbowl winning quarterback, Elway did an Eli Manning and refused to join the team, he was subsequently traded to the Broncos. Ever since his retirement Elway’s name has constantly come up when making comparisons to draftees, these comparisons include Jamarcus Russell and this year’s presumptive number one pick Trevor Lawrence.
Let’s look at some draft profiles which highlight some similarities between the three players.
David Lewin of Football Outsiders said, “Russell is possibly the most physically talented quarterback prospect since John Elway. He’s 6-foot-6, 260 pounds with an arm that makes Brett Favre look like Danny Wuerffel. Russell is also a good runner and his arm strength allows him to hit any open receiver while he is on the move. He has huge hands, which help him avoid fumbles, and remarkably quick feet for such large man.”
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. called him “John-Elway like” and said he could be one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL 2-3 years after he was drafted.
Todd McShay went further, stating “I can’t remember being in such awe of a quarterback in my decade of attending combines and pro days. The ball just explodes out of his hands”.
Russell’s coach at the Raiders said “he’s like a video game, there’s not a throw he can’t make and there’s some he can make I’m not sure anyone else can make.”
Like Elway, Lawrence is in a highly rated quarterback class. With another five quarterbacks who may be picked in the top four picks this year, (Wilson, Lance, Jones, Fields). Elway shared a draft with Dan Marino and Jim Kelly.
Nick Sarnelli of Fantasy Football Astronauts describes Lawrence, “Trevor Lawrence is physically gifted and a superb athlete. He has great accuracy and touch on deep and tight window throws. And his mobility and pocket presence are already elite.”
Going back to Mel Kiper, in 2020 he described Trevor Lawrence as “the most complete QB prospect since John Elway and Andrew Luck.
There is a general consensus on Trevor Lawrence. As NFL.com puts it, he is refined and polished for his age .And the prototype for today’s brand of franchise quarterback.
Online draft profiles are rare for the 1983 draft pick. But Mel Kiper stated “Elway received the highest grades one can achieve in all categories. He has no discernible weaknesses and is the prototype QB. Without question Elway is a can’t-miss All-Pro NFL QB who has the ability to make a place for himself in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
In our study Kiper is 1 for 2, with Lawrence yet to be determined. One of the big differences in the opportunities given to Jamarcus Russell and John Elway were the roster’s they inherited.
In Elway’s second year he led a 13-3 team which had the number 2 scoring defence. While Russell’s 2nd year resulted in the Raiders worst season since 2002. Russell had a receiving core of Ronald Curry (181 yards), Javon Walker (196 yards), and tight end Zach Miller (778 yards). Alongside an offensive line that saw him sacked 31 times in 15 games.
We cannot say with any certainty how Lawrence’s career will go. Or even where he will rank on the list of quarterbacks picked number one. But the roster he lands on – presumably the Jaguars – will go a long way to determining this. He will be working with new coach Urban Meyer. With good offensive weapons in DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault and running back James Robinson. He has a young core to build around, if that line can keep him on his feet.
Every year different players are anointed the next big thing. From Andrew Luck to Kyler Murray. Trubisky was drafted ahead of Mahomes. We don’t know how they will turn out. But for pure entertainment purposes alone, lets hope Trevor Lawrence has a more Elway career than Russell.