Oakland Raiders History: Top 10 Wide Receivers
From the team that brought us the "vertical game," here is a list of the top 10 wide receivers in Oakland Raiders history.
I have no doubt that any list of the top 10 for the Raiders will provoke a huge debate amongst the fanbase.
But that's a good thing, right?
So here are top 10 as I see them, and it can only be a personal view. Whilst statistics clearly play a part, it isn't the only thing that my list is based on. It is also based on what these individuals meant to their team, and what their overall contributions were to the Oakland Raiders.
Well. Here goes...
No. 10 - Jerry Porter
Now Jerry Porter was never a great favourite of the Raider Nation I know. He had a questionable attitude at times, and was never the 1000 yard receiver that he was drafted to be (he was two yards short in 2004).
But when the Raiders took Porter in the second round out of west Virginia in the 2000 draft (47th overall), they didn't really know what they had other than the best athlete available (in true Raider style!)
But in eight years in the silver and black, Porter caught 284 balls for almost 4000 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Enough to get him to No. 10 on the list..
No. 9 - Dokie Williams
Whilst Jerry Porter wasn't a fan favourite, Dokie Williams was. Drafted out of UCLA in 1983, he played in 74 games for the then Los Angeles Raiders.
He started 39 of them, and over five years he caught 248 passes for 2866 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Williams wasn't a big guy at 5'11" and 180 lbs, but he was a genuine deep threat for that great Raider team of the 80s, and averaged an impressive 19.4 yards per catch over his career.
No. 8 - Willie Gault
Willie Gault was a true deep threat in every sense of the phrase, and that is exactly why Al Davis traded for him from the Chicago Bears in 1988.
He wasn't a perennial 1000 yard receiver, but he was a threat to score from anywhere on the field. A former 400m Olympic medalist, Gault had genuine elite speed and no one caught him from behind.
He wasn't great for the Raiders, but he was very good.
In six years with the Raiders he made 149 receptions for 2985 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also had an impressive 20.0 yards per catch.
He wasn't elite, but he was a true Raiders/Al Davis-type speedster who the defense had to account for.
No. 7 - Mervyn Fernandez
Fernandez was selected by the Raiders in the 10th round of the 1983 draft, but he wouldn't play a down for them until the 1987 season.
After a successful four years in the Canadian leagues, he came back to the NFL and was very productive for the Raiders in five of his six seasons.
His best year was 1989, when he went over 1000 yards for the season (1069) and scored nine touchdowns
Catching 209 footballs for 3764 yards in that time, together with 19 touchdowns and a very respectable 19.0 yard average per catch gets Fernandez a place on this list.
No. 6 - Jerry Rice
After 16 years with the San Francisco 49ers, the Raiders were privileged to sign Jerry Rice as a free agent in 2001 at the age of 39.
Not many players have any mileage left in them at that age, but Jerry Rice was probably the greatest ever.
In three years playing for Oakland he caught 243 passes for 3286 yards and 18 touchdowns. In two of those three years he went over 1000 yards, and in the 2002/3 season he went to the Pro Bowl and helped the Raiders get back to the Super bowl.
They may have been beaten, but Jerry Rice still caught a 48-yard touchdown pass from Rich Gannon.
Only three years in Oakland, but what he achieved at his age was just incredible.
No. 5 - Warren Wells
Warren Wells only played four years with the Raiders, but if he had given himself entirely to football he could have been one of the best ever.
His career was short, but he still left a legacy as the prototype wide receiver for Al Davis' vertical passing game. Troubles in his private life and brushes with the law may have dogged him through his years in the league, but on the field he was a true performer.
In those four years he caught 156 passes for 3436 yards and 42 touchdowns, at an amazing 23.3 yards per catch.
In 1969 he caught passes for 1260 yards (led the NFL) and 14 touchdowns. His average yards per catch was 26.8. Simply amazing.
He made two Pro Bowls for Oakland before he retired.
No. 4 - Art Powell
Art Powell was one of the first true stars of the American Football League, and although the Raiders were his third team, his star shone just as brightly in Oakland as it had done before.
Art Powell had the size (6' 3", 211 lbs) and speed to be a difference maker and that is exactly what he became for the silver and black, arriving the same year the young Al Davis became head coach.
In four years with the Raiders he had 254 receptions for 4491 yards and 50 touchdowns. An outstanding performance by any scale.
Powell was also a great team player and leader, with the kind of character and work ethic that teams coach about.
No. 3 - Tim Brown
Now something tells me I am going to get some comments for rating Tim Brown No. 3 on the list, when his statistics clearly put him first.
It is easy to argue the case for Brown. He played 16 years with the Raiders, catching 1070 passes for 14,734 yards and 99 touchdowns. That puts him second on the all-time list for receiving yardage, and he made nine Pro Bowls.
He also did it on Raider teams that weren't really that good.
But while I like Tim Brown, I always felt that he was very good and very consistent for a long time, but not necessarily great. I have no doubt he will get into the Hall of Fame one day (for what it's worth), but I never felt the way about Brown on the field as I did about the other two.
Tim Brown was an excellent receiver, and one of the best ever to play in the silver and black. But on my list he is No. 3.
No. 2 - Cliff Branch
Cliff Branch is my No. 2 on this list, but in my heart he is No. 1.
For a little guy (5' 11", 170 lbs), I never saw anyone go up and consistently take the ball away from defensive backs like Cliff Branch did. I wish some of our players did that now.
In 14 years with the Raiders, Cliff Branch made 501 receptions for 8685 yards and 63 touchdowns (led the NFL in 1974/1976). He also made the Pro Bowl four times and was All-Pro three times.
He played well on the big stage, catching passes in three Super Bowls and scoring touchdowns in two of them. He also jointly owns the record for the NFL's longest pass play, at 99 yds against Washington in 1983.
He never played for anyone but the Raiders and was silver and black to the core.
I can also tell you that Cliff Branch is a gentleman and a great guy, I had the good fortune to meet him in Oakland in 2008. He still loves to talk with the fans, and spares plenty of time to sign autographs.
No.1 - Fred Biletnikoff
I just couldn't deny Fred Biletnikoff the No. 1 spot.
Legend has it that Al Davis signed Biletnikoff under the posts after the final whistle blew in his last college game for Florida State after selecting him 11th overall in the 1965 AFL draft.
Biletnikoff went on the play for the Raiders for 14 years, made six Pro Bowls, and gave a fantastic performance in Super Bowl XI, playing a huge part in the Raiders win. He was also named most valuable player (even though I think Clarence Davis should have won it).
The kind of catches that he used to make, one-handed with defensive backs all over him, seemed to defy the laws of physics. Whatever happened, he always seemed to come down with the ball.
He went from being a speedster in his younger days to being a possession receiver in his 30s, and made 589 receptions for 8974 yards and 82 touchdowns.
More than statistics though, Biletnikoff went on to coach Raider receivers for two decades, and did a fantastic job doing it.
He is rightly enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and his overall contribution to the Oakland Raiders organization makes him my No. 1.
I'm sure everyone has their own list, but this is the way I personally feel it should go.
For anyone looking for Randy Moss on this list, you didn't miss him because he wasn't here. To me, Moss is a no good bum who quit on his teammates, took Al's money and meandered his way through two years in the East Bay.
He is everything that is wrong with football.
Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, and Tim Brown are everything that is right with it, no matter what order you put them in.
So come on guys (and girls), what do you think?