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Russell could be top pick

5892.jpg previews the 2007 NFL draft in an eight-part series. Part I features the quarterbacks.

A quarterback is likely to be selected in the first three picks of this year's NFL draft for the seventh consecutive year. In fact, quarterbacks could go in the first two picks this year.

LSU's Jamarcus Russell (pictured) appears to be headed for the first pick of the draft. Russell, 6-5, 260, is coming out as a junior and though he is not a finished product, his talent and the importance of the position could land him in the top spot.

"Strongest arm in the nation," guru Tony Pauline said of Russell. "He can make all the throws. He zips the outs and fits the ball in tight spots. Mentally, he's improving."

Pauline expects Russell to be the first pick, which had been owned by quarterbacks from 2001-05. Last year, a quarterback wasn't selected until the third pick of the draft. This year, Russell and Notre Dame's Brady Quinn could go one-two.

"The biggest knock (on Russell) is he has to improve his fundamentals. He drops his elbow, which hurts his accuracy. His footwork is not proper all the time. The details of his fundamentals need to be improved," Pauline said.

Quinn, 6-3, 232, is impressive physically, has a strong arm and can also make all of the throws required of an NFL quarterback. Quinn played in an NFL system under head coach Charlie Weiss, but his senior season was not up to expectations and the team selecting Quinn will have to swallow poor performances by Quinn in big games.

Pauline said Quinn is "not especially mobile and stares down his primary target. His deep accuracy has been questioned, as has his leadership." Detroit could be interested in Quinn with the second pick, or Cleveland at number three.

Trent Edwards, 6-4, 231, of Stanford is Pauline's number three prospect. Edwards has all of the tools; good size, quick release, strong arm. He also does the little things well. What Edwards hasn't done is stay healthy. He missed much of last season due to a broken foot. He's played behind a poor offensive line at Stanford and with a strong supporting cast he could be a major steal. "More potential than production," Pauline said. Edwards figures to be drafted late in the second round or early in the third.

Houston's Kevin Kolb, 6-3, 220, has an NFL arm, good intangibles and makes good decisions. He's a take-charge guy who played in a passer-friendly offense that used the shotgun formation. He's a third-round prospect.

Drew Stanton, 6-3, 226, has nice skills, a strong and accurate arm and can throw on the run. Stanton doesn't force the ball into coverage and has some mobility, but he never played on a winning team at Michigan State and never took them to a bowl. The knock on Stanton is that he tends to hold the ball too long and will get rattled. Pauline says Stanton is a late-third, early-fourth round prospect.

Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, 6-0, 225, of Ohio State showed major improvement last year. He had a 30-6 touchdown to interception ratio. He's a good short to intermediate range passer whose deep arm is marginal at best. Pencil him in for the fourth or fifth rounds.

Nevada's Jeff Rowe, 6-5, 226, is a timing passer who would fit well in a West Coast offense. Rowe has solid fundamentals, finds the open receiver and can improvise. Injuries have held him back and he's played poorly under pressure. He's a fifth-round prospect.

Isaiah Stanback, 6-2, 216, of Washington is a tremendous athlete with a live arm. He showed a lot of progress as a senior until a foot injury ended his season in October. Stanback is a fifth-round or sixth-round prospect.

John Beck, 6-2, 215, of BYU is an intelligent, accurate passer with better than average arm strength. He doesn't make the bad throw; sixth or seventh round.

Jordan Palmer, 6-5, 230, of UTEP is a pocket passer who knows where his receivers are. The younger brother of Carson Palmer is tough and will play hurt. The knock on Palmer is that he constantly puts the ball up for grabs. He's a seventh-round prospect.

Jared Zabransky of Boise State, Justin Rascati of James Madison and Toby Korrodi of Central Missouri State could sneak into the late rounds.

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