Draft day is a mixed bag for every fan: the possibilities are endless, upside is huge, and opinions are plentiful from so-called "experts". Despite these, the Raiders have picked "guaranteed" superstars, risky propositions, and players no one really understands. The following list covers the Top 10 Raiders draft moments, covering a wide variety of results.
The below 10 players (or pairs of players) represent either great drafts, players who exceeded expectations, or just perennial all-stars found via the draft.
10. 2003 – 1st Round – Nnamdi Asomugha – Highly touted out of Cal, and everyone figured he had potential, however, it wasn't expected that he become one of the top 2 corners in the league by his 5th year. His work ethic both on and off the field has proven he was well worth the choice.
9. 2000 – 5th Round – Shane Lechler – Late round picks are often used for kickers and punters, but few of those result in perennial pro-bowlers who lead the league repeatedly in net yardage.
8. 1995 – 1st Round – Napoleon Kaufman – Being local to UW, I knew what Kaufman could do. The Raiders discovered it as well, both from the backfield, as well as on kickoff returns. It's a bit of a reach for this list—however, what seemed like a reach to others at the time, was proved out by his performance over time.
7. 1981 – 2nd Round – Howie Long – dominated his position, and the league. He learned well from those around him and won a Super Bowl with the Raiders. Not even his performance in those Chevy commercials can detract from his performance in the Silver and Black.
6. 1987 – 7th Round – Bo Jackson – the Raiders took a flying leap, despite the fact he was playing baseball at the time. Sure enough, Jackson signed and showed up, and dominated the league. He attained immortality in two places – 1) the Kingdome, and 2) Tecmo Bowl.
5. 1988 – 1st Round – Tim Brown, Terry McDaniel — With these two picks in one round, the Raiders made the entire '88 class a success. Regardless of the other picks, these two played many years and led the Raiders to the playoffs repeatedly. They didn't get a Superbowl, but regardless showed they were worth the picks.
4. 1972 – 4th Round – Cliff Branch — combined with Casper and Stabler to form the triumvirate of Raider domination. The 3 of them set the standard for possession catches and vertical passing for the 70's.
3. 1977 – 1st Round – Lester Hayes – Hayes teamed with Mike Haynes and dominated the backfield for many years. The next drafted Raiders cornerback of the same caliber after him may be Asogmugha
2. 1974 – 2nd Round – Dave Casper — The Ghost to the Post was a staple of the Raiders offense for nearly a decade. He was also part of memorable plays, as well as rule-changing Holy Roller plays. He combined with Branch and Stabler into a very dangerous set of weapons.
1. 1968 – 2nd/3rd Rd – Ken Stabler and Art Shell – These two go without saying as all-time Raider greats. With Gene Upshaw (R.I.P – always a Raider) the year before, the Raiders built the foundation for their playoff success in the 70s. Every offensive line player and QB has been judged against the standard for success set by these two.
So, there it is. The quintessential, unarguable, best list of Top 10 Raider Draft picks ever. Or maybe not. Even if you disagree, it will only raise your anticipation of hearing those fateful words — "With the 7th Pick in the 2009 Draft, the Oakland Raiders select..."
And hopefully, just maybe, if we say our prayers and take our vitamins, that player will be on the next version of this list five years from now.
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