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Amidst all of the dark clouds at Baylor over the past few seasons, Russell provided reason for hope, earning Heisman consideration and guiding the Bears to as high as No. 2 overall in the national polls during an exhilarating but injury-shortened junior season in which he threw for 29 touchdowns over just seven games. Russell returned to action as a senior, again dazzling with his big arm and athleticism to record another 28 touchdowns (including eight rushing).
Unfortunately, for all of his talent and production, Russell has struggled with serious injuries, including a gruesome dislocated ankle (suffered against Oklahoma, November 14, 2016) which abruptly ended his career at Baylor. This came on the heels of undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a broken neck (cervical vertebrae) midway through his junior campaign.
Needless to say, any future in the NFL will hinge on the medical evaluations teams receive on Russell at the 2017 Scouting Combine. If healthy, Russell warrants serious consideration, demonstrating not only a strong arm but terrific overall athleticism.
As a starter at Baylor, Russell owned a 14-3 record, throwing 60 TD passes against 14 interceptions and 5,461 yards while rushing for another 1,240 yards and 20 touchdowns. He ranks second only to predecessor Bryce Petty in passing efficiency (159.36) at Baylor and holds the school record for yards per play in total offense with an average of 8.324.
STRENGTHS: Broad-shouldered, well-built quarterback with a quick trigger and strong arm. Quick decision-maker who flashes impressive accuracy to the intermediate and deep levels of the field. Possesses enough touch to drop the ball over the linebacker and under the safety down the seam but is at his best slinging it with velocity, zipping slants and skinny posts and often hitting his receivers in stride to create run-after-the-catch opportunities. A true dual-threat, boasting the elusiveness to make defenders miss in tight quarters as well as deceptive straight-line speed. Showed toughness and resiliency in fighting back from the neck surgery to return as Baylor's starter in 2016. Highly regarded by the Baylor coaching staff and his teammates.
WEAKNESSES: Played in a simplified offense that did not huddle, take snaps from under center or ask the quarterback to make many post-snap reads - all fixtures at the NFL level. Reliant upon his initial read, staring down his primary target and rarely switching to second and third receiving options. Too often forces receivers to adjust their routes, spraying the ball high, low and wide due to inconsistent mechanics as a passer. Does not consistently step into his throws, flinging the ball with a whip-like motion. Comes with obvious durability concerns which will require a close look by team doctors at the Combine.
IN OUR VIEW: Russell possesses undeniable tools but based on the relatively simple scheme in which he starred as well as his injury-marred past, he is much more of a project than his production might lead you to believe.
COMPARES TO: Bryce Petty, New York Jets: Like his predecessor at Baylor, Russell has the arm, athleticism and intangibles to warrant Day Three consideration. He could struggle if pushed onto the field too early in his NFL career, however, requiring a patient quarterback coach.