The 25 Greatest Players in Oakland Raiders History

Dan Wilkins@@DanWilkinsNFLCorrespondent IIMay 24, 2013

The 25 Greatest Players in Oakland Raiders History

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    The Oakland Raiders are certainly one of the first teams that come to mind when one thinks of both history and tradition in the NFL

    Of course, there are many reasons for that, but the most important of which surrounds the players that have donned the silver and black over the years. 

    The most important criteria for this list include production, length of tenure, contributions to championship teams, and overall legacy. 

    Here are the 25 greatest players in Oakland Raiders history.

25. P Shane Lechler (2000-12)

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    It’s not too often that a punter would make the any team's top 25 greatest players of all time list, but then again, the odds certainly increase when that punter is the best to ever play his position.

    Lechler is the NFL career leader in yards per punt, with a current average of 47.5 yards. Over the years he has been the ultimate special teams weapon for the Raiders, constantly bailing out what was a horrendous offense for much of the past decade. 

    In his 13 years with the team, Lechler was elected to seven Pro Bowls and was named to the All Decade Team of the 2000s as well. 

    As of this offseason he is no longer with the team, but he has as good a chance as any to be the first punter elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is more than deserving of a spot on this list.

24. RB Bo Jackson (1987-90)

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    Had Bo Jackson’s football career not been brought to an early conclusion due to injury, he undoubtedly would have been much higher on this list. 

    While only playing four seasons with the team would generally not see a player making the cut on a list like this, the unbelievable talent that Jackson brought cannot go unrecognized. 

    In Jackson, the Raiders had a running back with possibly the greatest combination of size, strength and speed of all time, measuring in at about 6’1” 221 pounds, and long-rumored to have run a 4.21 40-time. 

    Averaging 5.4 yards per carry in his short time with the team, Bo Jackson established himself as one of the most dangerous and dominant offensive players in the league and certainly could have been one of the best to play the game had he stayed healthy.

23. TE Dave Casper (1974-80, 84)

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    Dave Casper played in an era that did not see nearly as much receiving production from the tight end position as we see today, but that didn’t stop him. 

    In eight seasons with the Raiders, Casper tallied 3,294 receiving yards for 35 touchdowns, including a career high of 10 in 1976. 

    Most known for his “Ghost to the Post” play in a playoff matchup against the Baltimore Colts, Casper is one of the most recognizable names in franchise history. 

    He was part of two Super Bowl Championship teams and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

22. DE Greg Townsend (1983-93, 97)

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    Even though he played in an era where offenses were much more geared toward the running game than they are today, Greg Townsend established himself as a quite a dominant pass-rusher off the edge. 

    In his 12 seasons with the Raiders, Townsend totaled 107.5 sacks, which is good for the all-time franchise lead by a wide margin. 

    What was most impressive about Townsend’s game was the consistency in his production. In seven of his first nine seasons, he put up double-digit sack numbers and rarely missed a game along the way.

21. LB Phil Villapiano (1971-79)

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    Phil Villapiano is one of the more recognizable Raiders linebackers, and for very good reason. 

    In his nine seasons with the silver and black, Villapiano earned his way to four Pro Bowls, and was part of the Raiders’ Super Bowl XI Championship team. 

    Villapiano was a key member of a Raiders defense that was dominant throughout the 1970s, and is extremely deserving of this spot.

20. TE Todd Christensen (1979-88)

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    After slowly becoming a bigger part of the Raiders’ offense in 1982, Todd Christensen established himself as a dominant pass-catching tight end in 1983. 

    That 1983 season, where the Raiders would go on to a Super Bowl victory, was one of three in his career that Christensen would surpass the 1,000 receiving yards mark. 

    Christensen can be seen as one of the players of the era that helped to progress the league-wide movement of using tight ends as pass-catchers. He would finish his career with 5,872 yards receiving and 41 touchdowns, and can be considered as one of the great Raiders players.

19. QB Rich Gannon (1999-04)

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    Raiders fans remember Rich Gannon as the last quarterback to lead them to sustained success. While he may not have had the longest tenure with the team, Gannon’s production in the four seasons from 1999-2002 was as good as any. 

    In those four seasons, plus two injury-shortened years following which, Gannon put up a total of 17,585 passing yards, and 114 touchdowns. 

    Of course, he led the Raiders and the league’s most dominant offense to a Super Bowl appearance following his MVP season in 2002 as well. 

    A longer tenure with the team and/or a Super Bowl victory would have had Gannon much higher on this list, but there is no doubting he is among the all-time Raiders greats either way.

18. WR Cliff Branch (1972-85)

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    Cliff Branch was a wide receiver that embodied everything the Raiders have been known for throughout their history. 

    Branch is quite easily the most productive vertical threat the Raiders have ever had, and he has the numbers to back it up. 

    Over 14 career seasons, all of which with the Raiders, Branch put up 8,685 receiving yards for 67 touchdowns and an average of 17.3 yards per reception. 

    Branch was a part of all three Raiders Super Bowl teams, went to four Pro Bowls and is still a deserving candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

17. S George Atkinson (1968-77)

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    George Atkinson is one of several Raiders defensive backs that were long known for their physical play. 

    While he may be best known for some of the controversial hits he made, such as that on Lynn Swann of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Atkinson was an extremely productive player as well. 

    In his nine seasons as a Raider, Atkinson intercepting 30 passes, tying him for fifth on the Raiders’ all-time list. 

    Today, he is still very much involved with the organization, working as one of the team’s broadcasters.

16. LB Rod Martin (1977-88)

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    Rod Martin will always be remembered for his downright dominant performance in the Raiders’ Super Bowl XV victory, intercepting Eagles QB Ron Jaworski a record three times and deservedly so. 

    At the same time, there was still much more to his career as a Raiders, most notably another solid performance three seasons later in Super Bowl XVIII en route to another Raiders victory. 

    Martin played each of his 12 seasons in a Raiders uniform, tallying a career total of 14 interceptions and returning four of which for touchdowns.

15. WR Fred Biletnikoff (1965-78)

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    Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988, Fred Biletnikoff goes down as not only one of the best Raiders receivers of all time, but simply one of the best, period. 

    His career totals of 589 receptions, 8,974 receiving yards and 76 touchdowns, including 10 consecutive seasons of over 500 yards' receiving, become all the more impressive when we consider the run-dominant era that he played in. 

    Each of his 14 seasons as a player came with the silver and black, where he won a Super Bowl, one Super Bowl MVP, and was elected to six Pro Bowls. 

    Although this list is based on a player’s contributions during their playing career, Biletnikoff’s 10 seasons of service as the team’s wide receivers coach must be noted as it only adds to his Raiders legacy.

14. OG Steve Wisniewski (1989-01)

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    Playing 13 seasons for the Raiders, mostly in what was a rough decade for the franchise, Steve Wisniewski was a marker of consistency on the offensive line. 

    Wisniewski was elected to eight Pro Bowls throughout his career, establishing himself as one of the most dominant guards of the time. Not surprisingly, he was later elected to the All-Decade Team of the 1990s as well. 

    After the conclusion of his playing career, Wisniewski maintained ties with the Raiders organization and even coached as an offensive line assistant during the 2011 season.

13. CB Mike Haynes (1983-89)

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    Mike Haynes only played half of his 14-year career with the Raiders, but was extremely productive as a shutdown cornerback tandem with Lester Hayes. 

    In his seven seasons with the team, Haynes notched 18 interceptions, and was part of the Raiders’ Super Bowl XVIII Championship. 

    Haynes was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997 and comes in right near the top on a long list of great cornerbacks in Raiders history.

12. CB Lester Hayes (1977-86)

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    Lester Hayes is possibly the most deserving Raiders candidate yet to be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

    His 39 career interceptions have him tied with Willie Brown for the all-time franchise lead, including 13 in the 1980 season. Shortly thereafter, quarterbacks simply stopped looking his way. 

    Part of two Super Bowl champion teams, Hayes was a huge part of the Raiders’ success as a defense for many years and formulated what is known as one of the best cornerback tandems in league history with Mike Haynes.

11. LB Ted Hendricks (1975-83)

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    Ted Hendricks, or better known as “The Mad Stork,” is the most accomplished linebacker in Raiders history. 

    After coming over in a trade from Green Bay prior to the 1975 season, Hendricks’ career took off, and he would go on to play nine years in the silver and black. 

    He excelled in every facet of the game, producing as a pass-rusher, run-stopper and a coverage linebacker. 

    Hendricks retired with eight Pro Bowl appearances and an eventual induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

10. S Jack Tatum (1971-79)

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    Known as “The Assassin,” Jack Tatum was one of the most physical safeties in not only the history of the Raiders, but in the history of the NFL as well. 

    In his nine seasons with the silver and black, Tatum tallied 30 interceptions, with a high of six in 1977. Tatum played at a time when tackle statistics were not kept, but again, his lasting impact was more so in the physicality of which rather than the numbers. 

    Jack Tatum was a member of the Super Bowl XI Championship team and is both one of the most recognizable names and greatest players in Raiders history.

9. CB Willie Brown (1967-78)

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    Willie Brown is another of the most iconic players in Raiders history, and another member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

    Most often remembered for his Super Bowl XI interception return on the way to a Raiders victory, Brown is was easily one of the best cornerbacks of his era. 

    His 39 career interceptions in a Raiders uniform has him tied for the franchise lead with Lester Hayes, and that number is unlikely to be touched anytime soon.

8. QB Jim Plunkett (1979-86)

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    Jim Plunkett is one of several Raiders players still waiting for his turn to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If it hasn’t come by now, it may not, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t. 

    Jim Plunkett led the Raiders to two Super Bowl Championships, and despite a fairly short tenure in comparison to some other quarterbacks, he sits fourth on the franchise’s all-time passing list with 12,665 yards. 

    Plunkett’s success represents everything that the Raiders were in the 1970s and 80s, as a team known to give talented but cast-off players a second chance. 

    Jim Plunkett is one of the Raiders most important players in franchise history.

7. DE Howie Long (1981-93)

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    Howie Long goes down as the best defensive lineman in Raiders history, and it’s not really that close. 

    In his 13-year career, all of which with the silver and black, Long tallied an official 84 sacks. That number would have been higher, but sacks did not become an official NFL statistic until after his rookie season. 

    In addition to his pass rush skill, Long’s physicality allowed him to be one of the best all-around defensive ends in the history of the NFL, and his naming to the 1980s All-Decade Team speaks very much in favor of that. 

    Long was part of the Raiders’ Super Bowl XVIII Championship team, was elected to eight Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

6. RB Marcus Allen (1982-1992)

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    Marcus Allen’s Raiders career may have ended in an undesirable way, including finishing with the rival Kansas City Chiefs, but that should take nothing away from how great he was in silver and black. 

    In 11 seasons with the Raiders, albeit some of which with minimal playing time, Allen rushed for 8,545 yards and 79 touchdowns. His best season, coming in 1985, Allen ran for an impressive 1,759 yards and 11 touchdowns. 

    Like several other players and employees in franchise history, disputes with Al Davis were their downfalls. In the case of Marcus Allen, although his stats took somewhat of a hit in the long run, he still goes down as one of the Raiders’ all-time greats nonetheless and was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

5. QB Ken Stabler (1970-79)

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    The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and that has long been the case. As such, it only makes sense that the Raiders’ all-time leading passer, Ken Stabler, comes in this high on the list. 

    Stabler finished his 10-year Raiders career with 19,078 yards and 150 touchdowns, including a victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI. 

    More than anything, Ken Stabler was a winner. As the Raiders' starting quarterback, he held a record of 69-26-1 and was a huge part of their success throughout the 1970s.

4. C Jim Otto (1960-74)

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    Jim Otto is another of the Raiders’ most recognizable players despite the fact that his career began well before the Super Bowl era. 

    Joining the Raiders in 1960, Otto did not miss a single game as their starting center for 15 consecutive seasons. That total was good for 210 regular-season starts and 308 overall. 

    Not only did he make those starts, but did so with the highest of quality. Otto was elected to the AFL All-Star game in each of his nine seasons there and was elected to the first three Pro Bowls when they were implemented after which. 

    Otto’s “00” number will always be a marker of consistency and toughness in Raiders history.

3. WR Tim Brown (1988-03)

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    Although the process has become quite cluttered for the wide receiver position, it is only a matter of time before Tim Brown becomes a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

    Brown finished his career holding many league and franchise receiving records, the most impressive of which come in the shape of consecutive seasons or games with a given statistical achievement. These displayed just how great Brown was over a long period of time. 

    What’s even more interesting, as many have long alluded to, is considering what Brown could have been with better quarterback play in his time with the Raiders. The best quarterback play, courtesy of Rich Gannon, did not come until his later years, yet he still became one of the most productive receivers in NFL history.

2. LT Art Shell (1968-82)

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    Selected by the Raiders in the third round of the 1968 NFL draft, Art Shell went on to have a career that would see him inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989. 

    In which, Shell helped to formulate a dominant left side to the offensive line with Gene Upshaw at left guard that would lead the Raiders to success for quite some time. 

    Art Shell was part of two Super Bowl Championship teams in his 15-year career with the Raiders and was elected to eight Pro Bowls as well.

1. LG Gene Upshaw (1967-81)

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    Gene Upshaw checks in as the greatest Raiders player of all time for many reasons.

    After winning the starting left guard job as a rookie in training camp, he went on to start 207 straight games for the Raiders, establishing himself as a mark of consistency up front. 

    With Art Shell beside him at tackle, Upshaw helped to form what was a dominant left side to the offensive line for quite some time and was rewarded year after year for his obvious success. 

    Upshaw helped lead the way to two of the Raiders’ three Super Bowl victories, and was the first full-time guard in the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he was enshrined in 1987.