Top 10 Most Overrated and Underrated Oakland Raiders in Franchise History

Carl CockerhamSenior Analyst IOctober 12, 2011

Top 10 Most Overrated and Underrated Oakland Raiders in Franchise History

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    The Oakland Raiders have a very rich history with the championships and all of the great players that came through. They have numerous Hall of Fame players, players that should be in the Hall of Fame and just great players that have helped along the way.

    The Raiders have also had their share of overrated players that somehow became fan favorites. Some of them were great great players but still overrated as they are blown up way more than what they should have been. 

    Then I have a bonus that is the five greatest Raiders of all time.

    Turn the page to take a look at them. 

Overrrated: No. 10 Bruce Gradkowski

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    Former Raiders head coach Tom Cable sold career backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and the nation bought him. I guess the nation was ready to buy anything after seeing what Jamarcus Russell turned out to be.

    Then current Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell was traded for and much of the nation was still sold on Gradowski. Fans at the stadium chanted "'Bruce" last year after one incomplete pass.

    Campbell went through his rough times last year and still has yet to prove he's the man but come on! They were screaming for a man that was 3-5 as a Raider and threw five touchdowns with seven interceptions in 2010.

    There were people still wanting him to come back and start this year!

Overrated: No. 9 Mario Henderson

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    I knew not to buy anything that Tom Cable was selling after seeing what he did with supposed franchise left tackle Mario Henderson. He was a one-trick pony that could only deal with power rushers like Mario Williams but couldn't get out of his stance fast enough for speed rushers.

    I remember when he got all the praise in 2008 after shutting Williams out and Raider Nation thought they had the next Art Shell. Then he was a massive disappointment in 2009 and had his job taken from him in last year.

    Raider Nation once called him "Super Mario."

    Between he and Gradkowski, I can see it's not very hard to become a fan favorite. 

Overrated: No. 8 Justin Fargas

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    Please don't get this one twisted on me because I loved Justin Fargas just like everyone else did. The man ran like he didn't care if he lived or died every time he carried the ball.

    I can understand the way he became a fan favorite but I believe he was oversold to Raider Nation by Lane Kiffin and later and Tom Cable. I understand the Darren McFadden struggled with injuries early in his career but Fargas started over McFadden even when he was healthy.

    Fargas took carries away for both he and Michael Bush early on.

    He was once called the heart and soul of the team but how much heart and soul does a sub-.500 team have?

Overrated: No. 7 Jerry Porter

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    Jerry Porter was supposed to be the next great receiver after the Tim Brown and Jerry Rice era. After all, he was the No. 3 receiver when he playing with them—doing some damage on No. 3 corners.

    But then in 2004, without Brown and Rice, Porter showed some promise with a 998-yards receiving with nine touchdowns. That included a six catch, 135-yard, three touchdown performance on Champ Bailey and the Denver Broncos.

    The next year, he had 942 yards playing along side Randy Moss but never became the guy he was supposed to be. Many in Raider Nation expected big things from Porter but he was overrated mainly by his own self.

    He thought he was Jerry Rice 2.0.

Overrated: No. 6 Warren Sapp

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    I liked Warren Sapp when he was at the U (University of Miami) and when he was in Tampa Bay. I didn't like him too much when he was beating on the Raiders in the Super Bowl in 2003 but you know what I mean.

    When he came to Raider Nation in 2004, I was as excited as all get out just like the rest of Raider Nation. Then he gave the Raiders a paltry 2.5 sacks and we were all let down to say the least.

    He got better with five sacks the next year then topped out in 2006 with 10 sacks. Then he went right on back to washed-up status with two sacks and retired.

    It was comical to see commentators not understand why the Raiders couldn't win or stop the run—mentioning Sapp as a big name on the team. His bust may end up in Canton soon but as a Raider, he was a completely overrated player.

    All he has done since is talk about how terrible it was playing for the Raiders.

    He was supposed to come in and help change things.

    Richard Seymour did!

Overrated: No. 5 Robert Gallery

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    Robert Gallery was the second overall pick in 2004 as a left tackle— only to become a bust. After busting at left tackle, he was moved to guard where he was decent but much of Raider Nation wanted to believe his play at guard made up for everything.

    The fact of the matter is he wasn't a great guard but he was the Raiders best offensive lineman last year. I guess that's why the Raiders weren't very good on the offensive line last year as they were among the league leaders in sacks allowed.

    Becoming dominant guard is the only way to avoid the bust list after being a Top 10 pick as a left tackle.

    Gallery isn't that—he was just an overrated guard that's often injured. 

Overrated: No. 4 Skip Thomas

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    I loved Skip Thomas back in the day but let's be real—when opposing teams went his way when they needed something back in the day. They knew what could and couldn't happen if they were to try going Hall of Fame corner Willie Brown's way.

    They called him "Dr. Death" too.

    Okay—he wasn't "Dr. Death" when Larry Csonka, Franco Harris or Earl Campbell ran his way. He didn't kill anything when Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Paul Warfield caught passes on his side either.

    I liked him but Dr. Death?  

Overrated: No. 3 John Matuszak

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    It's so crazy to hear people speak in such reverent tones when the speak about John Matuszak. I like what I know of him as he represents the crazy character side of being a Raider.

    However, much of Raider Nation talks as if he were the Reggie White of his era. The fact of the matter is he was far from the best defensive lineman on the team he played on.

    He was not the guy the opposing offensive coordinators game-planned around to run their offense. They didn't keep track of sacks back then but he wouldn't have been the leader there either.

    But a wild, crazy Raider does deserve some legendary status.

Overrrated: No. 2 Fred Biletnikoff

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    Fred Biletnikoff deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and I loved everything he did but he is still overrated. There are some older citizens of Raider Nation that still want to call him the best receiver in Raiders history.

    While Tim Brown was the best receiver in Raiders history, Biletnikoff is No. 2 all-time with the Raiders in receiving. I actually have him as the third-best receiver all-time for the Raiders behind Brown and Cliff Branch.

    That's because he couldn't do what he was able to do without Branch on the other side. Branch is the one that opposing defenses were scared to death of with defensive coordinators trying to take the deep ball away.

    While I already said that Biletnikoff deserves to be in Canton, he never got points taken off for swimming in stick-um like Lester Hayes did. Branch and Brown never did such things—cementing their place above Biletnikoff in my mind.

    It's hard to be the best receiver in franchise history when you're not the best on your team. Bottom line—on the '70s teams ask former Pittsburgh Steelers corner Mel Blount who he was most scared of.

    He'll tell you it was Branch.

Overrated: No. 1 George Blanda

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    Some call him "Mr. Raider."

    Al Davis thought he was the greatest clutch player of all time.

    That may have been the truth but Blanda is still the most over-hyped, over-romanticized and overrated Raider of all time. It is amazing for a player be able to kick field goals and throw touchdown passes but rosters weren't that big then and players needed to do more.

    Sammy Baugh played in an era before Blanda—making it possible to be is team's punter, kicker, defensive back, and quarterback. Blanda never won a Super Bowl and never threw for more than 522 yards in a season for the Raiders.

    He became the Raiders all-time leading scorer at one time mainly by kicking the ball.

    Let's call Sebastien Janikowski "Mr. Raider" if that's what we're going on.

Underrated: No. 10 Michael Huff

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    Raider Nation doesn't appreciate Michael Huff nearly as much as it should. He had a bad beginning to his career but his wasn't his fault as he was placed in the box to play strong safety.

    Whose idea was that?

    If it was Davis' idea, he more than made up for it with the contract extension he just gave him before the season. Many in Raider Nation question the decision to pay him so much money—citing the missed tackles he's had.

    Huff has straightened his tackling issues out as fan favorite Tyvon Branch has been the one missing tackles lately. He's coming off of a 87-tackle season where he also had three interceptions, four sacks, two forced fumbles and seven passes defensed.

    That landed him on the second team of the All-Pro NFL team in 2011 behind Ed Reed. Reed is the best free safety in the game but Huff can do some things that Reed can't do with his ability to cover man to man.

    He was in man coverage at corner when he made the interception to save the game Sunday.

    Huff's talents aren't appreciated enough around here. 

Underrated: No. 9 Eddie Anderson

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    Jack Tatum was is a legend for the hits he put on receivers he put on receivers when he patrolled the Raiders secondary. George Atkinson was also known for his hitting but Eddie Anderson was a bigger hitter than in Raiders history anyone not named Tatum.

    I'm not counting Ronnie Lott, who is a 49er.

    Anderson put people on the ground for long periods of time when he hit them. I can't forget the time he pounded the field three times to signify a professional wrestling pin after laying a receiver out.

    We shouldn't forget guys like Tatum and Atkinson but we shouldn't forget Anderson either.

    It seems like most citizens of Raider Nation have.  

Underrated: 8 Napoleon Kaufman

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    Napoleon Kaufman is the second best running back the Raiders have ever had in my opinion. The 5'9" 185-pound speedster could break one on you at any given time.

    What's amazing is how Kaufman bench pressed 500 pounds—helping him run inside as well as out. Raider Nation should not forget who this man is even though he underrated himself by retiring while still in his prime.

    What's more important than God?


Underrated: 7 Barrett Robbins

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    I know, I haven't forgiven him for going AWOL before the Super Bowl in 2003 either. But I'm giving him credit for what he did on the field and ignoring what he did off of it.

    Robbins was a 6'3" 320 pound best that could handled the huge nose tackles of the modern game. He was one of the main reasons that the Raiders could "pound the rock" during the Jon Gruden Era.

    I would have to find more film on Jim Otto but Robbins could be the best of the Raiders centers on the field.

Underrated: No. 6 Anthony Smith

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    Raider Nation remembers the Matuszaks and the and the Ben Davidsons and rightfully so. But I don't quite understand how no one remembers or talks about former defensive end Anthony Smith.

    He's No. 3 all time in sacks for the Raiders yet Raider Nation chooses to make legends of others on the defensive line. I love Davidson, Matuszak, Lyle Alzado for who they were just like everyone else but it's time to give Anthony Smith some props.

    He made the quarterback go down and made him go down hard.

Underrated: No. 5 Lincoln Kennedy

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    Lincoln Kennedy deserves  a whole lot more mention when it comes to Raiders legendary offensive lineman. Not only did he pass block well from the right tackle position but it gets no better than him in run blocking.

    He 6'6" 335 pound Kennedy absolutely mashed on people—allowing the Raiders to "pound the rock." I used to laugh hard when the guy he was playing against tapped his own helmet to come out of the game in the fourth quarter.

    Then I remember the pancakes he had and he would land right on top of them too.

Underrated: No. 4 Reggie Kinlaw

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    When you can run the ball and stop the run, you usually have a pretty good shot at going to a Super Bowl. The Raiders were in the Top 5 at stopping the run in the Super Bowl years of 1980 and 1983. 

    The Raiders had linebackers Rod Martin, Ted Hendricks, Bob Nelson and Matt Millen but everyone that knows football know that to run the ball on a 3-4, you have to block the nose tackle. When Reggie Kinlaw lined up at nose tackle for the Raiders, that wasn't something opposing teams did very well.

    The recognition all of the legendary defensive lineman get is deserved but people forget just how dominant Kinlaw was. 

Underrated: No. 3 Greg Townsend

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    This is a guy that really deserves more mention!

    I want to know why the Nation hardly ever brings up former Raiders defensive end Greg Townsend. There isn't a single solitary Raider throughout their history that has sacked the quarterback more that he has.

    Townsend had double-digit sacks in seven of his twelve years as a Raider! His burst off of the edge was second to none in Raiders history as opposing quarterbacks sure do remember him.

    Raider Nation should remember him a little more than it does. 

No 2 Phil Villapiano Underrated:

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    Phil Villapiano was an absolute beast!

    People remember him more for his commentary on NFL Films and other Raiders television programs but he could play. You can tell by some of the stuff that he says these days just how mean that man was.

    He's also a versatile player that could play the outside and inside linebacker positions. Bill Belichick would love to have a player like him today as he had more value than people remember him having to that 1976 championship defense.

    I don't think the 1976 team wins the Super Bowl without him. 

Underrated: No. 1 Jim Plunkett

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    Raider Nation remembers and loves them some Jim Plunkett still but I still have him in the underrated category. The reason why is because he's more underrated league wide as he's the only multiple Super Bowl winning quarterback not in the Hall of Fame.

    What goodness' name did Joe Namath do that Jim Plunkett didn't?

    They both threw more interceptions than touchdown for their career but wasn't an accident that Plunkett won two Super Bowls including a Super Bowl MVP. I've always been a big fan of Davis but he made a mistake by giving Marc Wilson the job after Plunkett just won a Super Bowl.

    I would even rather have had Plunkett starting in 1985 when the Raiders were led by NFL MVP Marcus Allen. They were bounced from the playoffs by the eventual AFC Super Bowl representitive New England Patriots.

    But that wasn't to be and that could have led to Plunkett getting his due. 


Greatest Raiders: No. 5 Howie Long

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    Howie Long is the most dominant defensive lineman the Raiders have ever had. I'd put him No. 2 behind Reggie White for most dominant defensive lineman the NFL has ever had.

    He could bull rush you inside, explode off the edge, and stop the run with no problem. That skill set gave Long the ability to play every position along the defensive line—keeping offensive coordinators up all night.

    The Hall of Famer is No. 2 on the Raiders all-time sack list.

    Need I say more?

Greatest Raiders: No. 4 Willie Brown

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    You gotta love the NFL Films program with Raiders Hall of Fame quarterback Willie Brown on it. The voice of Bill King says, he going all the way! Old man Willie! Touchdown Raiders!"

    Willie Brown will take on to the house on you real quick of you don't watch out. In fact, for my money, (sorry Deion Sanders) he's the best corner to ever play the game.

    All of the bump and run rules have been called the Mel Blunt rules but that isn't correct at all. Willie Brown has been bumping and running for much longer than Blunt—hardly ever allowing a receiver to get off the line of scrimmage.

    Sanders had six Alll-Pro selections and eight Pro-Bowl Selections to Brown's five All-Pro and nine Pro-Bowl selections. Deion has Brown beat in Super Bowl wins (2-1) as he was able to go from the 49ers to the Cowboys in the '90s.

    I give Brown the edge because he was more physical and tackled well.

    I believe 54 career interceptions—39 with the Raiders is another tip of the scales.

Greatest Raiders: No. 3 Tim Brown

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    Tim Brown is by far the best receiver to ever wear the Silver and Black.

    I have to wonder how close he could have been to Rice's numbers for the best to ever play in the NFL if he had better quarterback throughout his career. When Brown finished his career, he finished second on the NFL's all-time receiving yards list with almost 15,000 yards to Rice's 22,895 yards.

    Brown went through a stretch where he had the likes of Vince Evans, Jay Schroeder, Todd Marinovich, and Jeff George throwing him the football. Jerry Rice had two of the best to ever do it Joe Montanna and Steve Young throwing him the ball before the two came together with Rich Gannon in 2001.

    I won't try to deny that Rice is the best but I'm just saying.

Greatest Raiders: No. 2 Gene Upshaw/Art Shell

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    You got nowhere near the ball carrier running left or the quarterback in the pocket if you were a defensive lineman on the defensive right side. That's because Hall of Fame left guard and tackle Gene Upshaw and Art Shell wouldn't let you.

    They were two dominant pillars on the Raiders offensive line that I have ranked No. 2 together. The worked together, helped each other out, and were equally dominant so I had to rank them the same.

    They gave the quarterback about an hour to throw as well as create running lanes on the way to two Super Bowl wins. Individually, they were both perennial All-Pros at their respective positions.

    You can't help but win with players like that.

Greatest Raiders: No. 1 Marcus Allen

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    This is the best football player to ever lace them up in the NFL period—not just the Raiders. All of the lining up at receiver that Marshall Faulk did in his day was done by Marcus Allen First.

    LaDainian Tomlinson got mad props for throwing 10 to 15-yard touchdown passes but Allen threw 50-yard bombs for touchdowns. They love to give props to Emmitt Smith for picking up the blitz Allen did that and knocked defensive lineman out of games.

    He also lined up at fullback in the I formation for Bo Jackson so you can see there's not a more complete football player that's ever played this game. Allen finished his career with 12,243 yards rushing and 144 total touchdowns.

    Let's not forget how great he was on short yardage and goal-line too. 

    He's No. 12 all time in rushing and could have been much higher had he not been benched by Davis. As it stands, Allen was the only player in NFL history to win the NFL's Rookie of the Year, NFL MVP, Super Bowl MVP, and Comeback Player of the Year.

    And that's after winning the Heisman in College.

    It won't happen again! 


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    The overrated part was a hard list to make because a lot of the players that are overrated are just as good as they are overrated. The underrated players were no problem as I always fight for those guys at some point.

    And my five greatest are just that—the five greatest.

    I'd put them up against anyone.