Oakland Raiders: Top 25 All-Time Players
A few months ago, I wrote an article that revealed my top 10 all-time Raiders in franchise history. The Raiders have had so many great players, there were a bunch of players I believed I snubbed, but I didn't see them being better than my top 10 Raiders.
To see those players on the list, I expanded it to 25.
Again, there were so many great Raiders in the team's history, there are still some guys I didn't get in there. However, I am much happier with this list than I was with the last one.
I have a few changes in my top 10 but adding more players did help honor some more legends. This is not a popularity contest. Longevity, stats, accolades, impact and the eye test will be the criteria for this list.
Turn the page to see how it shakes out.
25. George Blanda
There will be no other kickers or punters on this list because there are simply too many great Raiders that were on the field more. George Blanda is my exception because he was more than just a kicker that came through in the clutch.
He was also a back-up quarterback that came through in the clutch.
He made one Pro Bowl as a kicker in 1967 and won the only game he started as a quarterback in 1968. He is known mostly for the five games that he had to come in for Daryle Lamonica and save the day with fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives.
This led Raider owner Al Davis to call him "the greatest clutch player in NFL history." I still have him down at 25 because I refuse to be a prisoner of those five moments.
Most of his real damage was done with the Houston Oilers.
24. Otis Sistrunk
As overused as the word "beast" is these days, it surely wouldn't apply to Otis Sistrunk. He was a big man in the 1970s at 6'4", 265 pounds and used his athletic ability more than his size to play every position on the defensive line.
You want to talk unusual?
Sistrunk didn't even play college football as he had a brief stint in the military and played semi-pro football. He was one of the main reasons why it was next to impossible to run on the Raider defense in the 1970s
He took many a double team in the run game and often collapsed the pocket in the passing game. Again, they didn't keep track of sacks and tackles back then, so you know that double teams drawn weren't a part of the equation.
He made only one Pro Bowl but deserved more.
The Steel Curtain took most of the defensive line glory in those days.
23-A. Warren Wells
Can you say deep threat?
Can you say phenom?
Wide receiver Warren Wells was both of those things for the Raiders back in the 1960s. Wells spent his rookie year in Detroit in 1964, then was out of football for a couple years before coming to Raider Nation.
He didn't do a whole lot in his first year as a Raider, but then had back to back 1,100-yard seasons. He scored 11 and 14 touchdowns respectively during that two-year period.
The way he did it is what made him a phenom.
Yes, he went deep with regularity as he averaged over 20 yards per catch over his four years with the Raiders. Wells made two Pro-Bowls and won an AFL title during his time but was a part of the team that said "big brother" to the Packers.
That leaves him at No. 23.
23-B. Art Powell
How about the pioneer of the constant deep ball?
Art Powell was that guy for the Raiders.
Powell posted back to back 1,300-yard seasons in his first two years with the Raiders after coming over from the New York Titans. He also scored 16 and 11 touchdowns respectively while averaging a whopping 18 yards per catch.
He was All-Pro in his first season and a Pro Bowler in each of his four seasons with the Raiders. In those four years, Powell racked up enough yards to rank him No. 5 on the Raiders all-time receiving list.
He might have been higher had the Raiders won a Championship during his time in Raider Nation.
22. Clem Daniels
At 6'1", 220 pounds, Clem Daniels was a big back in the 1960s.
He was also fast.
There goes Davis at the beginning of his height, weight, and speed combinations to make a great player. Daniels is No. 3 all-time on the Raiders rushing list 44 years after playing his last game.
Davis and his Raiders were among the first to use running backs as regular receiving targets in the 1960s. This allowed Daniels to use his skill set to rank No. 12 all-time receiving for the Raiders from the fullback position.
The Raiders were able to win their first AFL title with their No. 5 all-time touchdown scorer in the backfield. But they were then forced to say "big brother" to the Green Bay Packers of the newly merged NFL.
A win there would have had him higher.
21. Ben Davidson
At 6'8", 275 pounds, Ben Davidson was a huge man to be playing football in the 1960s. I don't even want to think about how big he would have been with today's weight lifting, training programs and supplements.
The man was so athletic for his size, as he was often seen leaping over blockers on the way to the quarterback. He also tipped a lot of passes at the line of scrimmage with his height, length and vertical leap.
Davis' mantra was, "The quarterback must go down and he must go down hard." Davidson made one All-Pro and three Pro Bowl teams in his time with the Raiders while executing that mantra.
He looked mean and played even meaner.
An AFL Championship with no Super Bowl held him down some.
20. Phil Villapiano
Phil Villapiano was an authentically mean, tough S.O.B. whose interviews as an old man darn near bring me to tears. He embodied the the Raider spirit while was a cornerstone on the Raider defense from his outside linebacker position.
He is most known for the "bottle opener." a tackling tactic where he squeezed the ball carrier around the neck and forced his helmet to pop off. That was a big part of the intimidation the Raiders were known for as ball carriers rarely made it very far against the Raider defense.
They rarely wanted the ball again either.
Villapiano made four Pro-Bowls and was a key player on the dominant 1976 defense that won the Super Bowl.
19. Chester McGlockton
Chester McGlockton was a dominating force in the middle of the Raiders' defense in the 1990's. I remember laughing as I watched the line of scrimmage go backwards as the quarterback was handing the ball off.
Most of the time the result was little, to no gain for the opposing team and McGlockton was a big part that. He was also a good pass rusher as he bulled his way to No. 5 on the all-time Raiders' sack list.
McGlockton made one All-Pro and four Pro-Bowl teams.
He may have been higher had he contributed to a championship team.
18-A. Rich Gannon
Rich Gannon is another one of those veteran, journeyman quarterbacks the Raiders traditionally succeed with. Jon Gruden saw him as the perfect guy to run his west coast offense and a great match was made.
He now ranks No. 1 all-time in Raider history in career passer rating and completion percentage. Gannon is also No. 2 in career passing yards and No. 3 in career touchdown passes.
His record as a starter is 45-29 and he has three playoff appearances, winning one AFC championship. He had either bad luck or no luck in his Super Bowl appearance to end the 2002 season against Gruden, who, at that time, was with Tampa Bay.
The thrashing he took in the Super Bowl keeps him at No. 18.
18-B. Daryle Lamonica
The mad bomber was the perfect nick name for Daryl Lamonica as bombs seemed to be all he threw. He is another player I have to put in the category of player pioneer as he was the first to go deep so often.
He probably, to this day threw deep more often than anyone in the history of the game. For his deep-throwing efforts, he is ranked No. 2 all-time in career passing yards and touchdown passes as a Raider.
Lamonica made two All-Pro teams and four Pro Bowls in his eight years with the Raiders. The excitement he brought was something else as he had 16 fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives.
The Raiders always had a puncher's chance late in the game thanks to Lamonica.
In the legendary Heidi Bowl, Lamonica threw the game-winning touchdown pass against the Jets with just 43 seconds left. The Raiders then forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and ran that back for a touchdown to ice the game.
Everyone watching the game on television missed it all thinking the Raiders lost, as a show called "Heidi" took the game off the air. The rule to ensure NFL games would be seen in their entirety was then put in place.
Another Raider to make the NFL change the rules.
Unfortunately for Lamonica he won the AFL Championship in 1967 but didn't win a Super Bowl.
That keeps him from being higher on this list.
17. Mark Van Eeghen
Mark Van Eeghen was a part of the power-running, ball-control portion of the Raiders offense in the 1970s. He ranks No. 2 in Raider history in rushing and rushing touchdowns.
He had many a drive-sustaining first down and touchdown near the goal line. He was one of my favorite players when I was a child because he was always so dirty and people always said the dirtiest players do the most.
He did do the dirty work and it led to two Super Bowl wins for the Silver and Black.
16-A. George Atkinson
You have to love a Raider that former Pittsburgh Steelers' head coach Chuck Knoll once called "the criminal element." George Atkninson was called that because of the way he ferociously went about patrolling the Raiders' secondary.
Receivers like Lynn Swann were in constant fear going over the middle because Atkinson was lurking. They knew they could get their lights put out by a clothesline, forearm, helmet or shoulder to the chin.
Atkinson didn't make an All-Pro team but made two Pro Bowls and helped make the Raiders the bully of the 1970s. That bully did cash in to win a Super Bowl in 1976 and Atkinson was a big part of that historical defense.
How about that?
A 180-pound bully.
16-B. Jack Tatum
If there were a stat for most defenders left unconscious, Jack Tatum would have to be the NFL's all-time leader. He would probably be among the all-time leaders in balls dropped due to hits and receivers hearing footsteps as well.
How about opposing receivers separated from their helmets?
I have him ranked even with Atkinson because he and Atkinson are one and the same. Tatum, along with Atkinson put the fear of God into the minds and hearts of receivers trying to run through the Raiders' secondary with their hard hits.
The two also tied for No. 5 all-time in Raider interceptions.
Tatum managed to get to three Pro Bowls in his 10 years with the Raiders.
He also helped Atkinson bully opposing receivers in the 1970s, leading to the 1976 Super Bowl appearance.
15. Rod Martin
If Thomas Howard was a little meaner, more instinctive and more physical, he would the next Rod Martin. Martin was a little on the small side for an outside linebacker but his speed and smarts more than made up for it.
He was always in the right place at the right time and made big plays when the Raiders needed it most. I don't wish to take anything away from anyone, but Martin made a huge case for himself to win MVP of Super Bowl 15 with three interceptions.
He also played a key role on the defense that took the Raiders to a Super Bowl 18 win. Martin made one All-Pro and two Pro Bowl teams in his 12 years with the Raiders.
He ranks No. 21 with the Raiders for all-time interceptions and No. 7 in sacks.
Martin is also a victim of no tackle stats in his day.
14. Todd Chistensen
Todd Christensen helped fellow tight ends Kellen Winslow and Ozzie Newsome pioneer the tight end position as primary passing targets. Christensen was the first tight end to catch over 90 balls and led the Raiders in receiving in four of his eight seasons at tight end.
He now ranks No. 4 on the Raiders all-time receiving list.
Christensen's clutch catches on third down and in the red zone helped the 1983 Raiders win Super Bowl 18. The Raiders made numerous playoff runs during his prime as a Raider as well.
Five Pro Bowls and two All-Pros complete Christensen's decoration as one on the Raiders best.
13-A. Mike Haynes
The trade Al Davis made for Mike Haynes has to be one the best the Raiders have ever made in their history. The term shutdown corner is overused in today's game but may be underused when it comes to Haynes.
If you want to take a guess of the type of skill set he had, Nnamdi Asomugha's is the closest. He shut down the league's best receivers as the 1983 Raiders' defense led the way to a Super Bowl 18 victory.
It was a thing of beauty to watch the Raiders shut down the NFL's No. 1 offense in that Super Bowl. To go with 1983, Haynes made two All-Pro and three Pro bowl teams while wearing the Silver and Black.
The Raiders also made numerous playoff runs with Haynes locking down receivers.
13-B. Lester Hayes
Hayes was a bumping, running fool.
That stick-um he overused led Hayes into a tie for the No. 1 spot in interceptions in Raider history. The coverage and the interceptions were outstanding but the way he got into opposing receivers' heads cannot be forgotten.
He put his hands on them and sometimes bent the rules, making them cry to the ref instead of focusing on football. For his efforts, Hayes made one All-Pro and four Pro Bowl teams in his 10 years as a Raider.
The display he put on along with Haynes in Super Bowl 18 is what he should be remembered for most. Haynes probably had the better individual career but Hayes contributed to one more Super Bowl team.
However, I can't separate the two because what they did together surpasses what they did apart.
You just couldn't throw the ball against these two.
12. Steve Wisniewski
Steve Wisniewski is on this list because of his dominance.
He came along just in time to help Bo Jackson get almost 1,000 yards in one half of a season, then injury ended his career. He also saw Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen sit the bench while in Davis' dog house.
To top it all off, he played with quarterbacks like Jay Schroeder, Todd Marinovich and Jeff George. Wisniewkski was at the end of his career when Rich Gannon came to town and the Raiders were then cheated out of the playoffs by the New England Patriots in 2001.
Therefore, I can't count it against him for not having much around him. Wisniewski did his job and did it well to the tune of two All-Pro and eight Pro Bowl teams in his 13 years with the Raiders.
He was a Raider legend.
11. Dave Casper
Dave Casper revolutionized the game, helping tight ends become consistent downfield targets before Christensen. He ranks No. 11 all time for the Raiders in receptions and No. 8 in touchdown receptions.
The former collegiate left tackle was also a tremendous run blocker and helped the 1976 Raiders win the Super Bowl. "Ghost to the Post" was his most memorable play, as he looked like a baseball outfielder Willie Mays making the spectacular and clutch catch in the 1977 playoffs.
Casper was named to four All-Pro teams and played in five Pro-Bowls during his illustrious career.
10. Jim Plunkett
Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls as a starting Raider quarterback, which got him on the list. He had a 38-19 regular-season record and finished as the Raiders' fourth-leading passer all time.
Why isn't he higher?
Plunkett was helped tremendously by the best defense in the league in his second Super Bowl run. He also benefited from Allen rushing for 466 yards, four touchdowns and an 8-yard per carry average in the playoffs.
Plunkett also had a 75.7 quarterback rating as a Raider and threw more interceptions than touchdowns (81-80). Throwing interceptions is something Raider quarterbacks do because they like to take chances down the field.
But you have to love Plunkett's ability to forget about it and go make a play to win the game.
9. Ted Hendricks
Ted Hendricks is one of the most colorful characters the Raiders have ever had and that's saying a lot. Raider legend has it that he had strippers in training camp with a sombrero and lemonade.
When the team got to the practice field, Hendricks said, "Come on boys, it's fun time." He's also been spotted at practice on a horse wearing an old army helmet.
On the football field, Hendricks was one of the smartest players in the history of the league and was very physical with his 6'8", 220-pound frame. His smarts and physicality led him to two All-Pro teams and four Pro Bowl appearances on the way to all three of the Raiders' Super Bowl wins.
An opposing player once said, "Running into Ted is like running to a piece of scrap iron."
8-A. Fred Biletnikoff
Fred Biletnikoff was a small man and didn't have speed to make up for it. But the two things he could do were run precise routes and catch everything thrown his way.
Who said Al Davis was only about height, weight, and speed?
What about the will to win?
Biletnikoff had a warrior's spirit to go with that will to win.
Those traits led Biletnikoff to No. 2 on the Raiders' all-time receiving list and an MVP in the 1976 Super Bowl. It also led him to two All-Pro selections and six Pro Bowl appearances along the way.
He had to be great for Al Davis to have a non-track star in his starting lineup at receiver.
8. Cliff Branch
Cliff Branch was the world-class sprinting, fear in the defense-striking kind of receiver that Al Davis loves. Davis has looked for another like Branch ever since he retired over 25 years ago.
Branch is the NFL's all-time greatest deep threat and the Raiders' No. 3 all-time receiver. The fear he struck in defenses helped his fellow No. 6 all-time Raider, Biletnikoff, do his damage over the middle and on intermediate routes.
Tight ends Casper and later Todd Christensen also benefited from Branch's presence as did the running game. All three Raider Super Bowls were won during the time this deep threat garnered extra attention.
In typical Raider fashion, Branch may have been the fastest player to wear an NFL uniform. To me, it's only fitting that I have he and Biletnikoff both ranked at No. 8 on the list.
They played together and neither would have been the same without the other.
7. Ken Stabler
Ken Stabler wanted the ball when there were two minutes left in a game, with the Raiders needing a touchdown to win.
No Raider fan around then will ever forget the "Sea of Hands" game when Stabler squeezed a football into the aforementioned "sea" to advance the 1974 Raiders into the next round of the playoffs.
To add to his clutchness, Stabler is the the Raiders' all-time leading passer, with one Super Bowl victory to top his Raider career off. With 19 fourth-quarter comebacks and 26 game-winning drives, there isn't a Raider quarterback in team history who was more clutch.
He had one All-Pro selection and four Pro Bowls for all his his efforts as well.
6. Howie Long
Howie Long took the approach of beating up the man in front of him and playing the run on the way to the quarterback. The result was all five opposing offensive linemen having to prepare for the most dominant defensive lineman in the NFL during the early '80s for both the run and pass.
I say all five because Long played nose tackle, defensive tackle and defensive end. Long ended with 84 sacks in his career, putting him at No. 2 all time for the Raiders.
Long made two All-Pro and eight Pro Bowl teams while with the Raiders
His efforts helped push the 1983 Raiders into Super Bowl 18 and come away with the victory.
5. Jim Otto
If only Jim Otto could have played two more years on those gimpy knees. This man deserved to win a Super Bowl more than any man that wore the Silver and Black but never did get one.
Otto played 15 seasons for the Raiders, from 1960-1974. (The Raiders won the Super Bowl in 1976.) But he did have a huge hand in turning a doormat franchise into one of the proudest in the NFL.
Otto exemplified a "committment to excellence" as he made the All-AFL team in 10-straight years. He then went on to play in the first three NFC-AFC Pro Bowls and made the NFL All-Pro team twice.
Otto payed the price with his body for playing in all 210 regular-season games, 308 total through countless injuries. The result of all that was 40 surgeries, as the now handicapped Otto says he wouldn't change a thing.
Now that's a "committment to excellence."
Not winning a Super Bowl while having good opportunities hurt him on this list.
4. Willie Brown
The image of Willie Brown running back a pick-six in Super Bowl XI is shown often on NFL Films. Brown deserves to be shown doing his thing so long after his career, as he changed the game of football.
He was a Davis height, weight and speed guy as he was a 6'2", 220-pound corner. Aside from running with the small, fast receivers, Brown used his size to put hands on them. He kept them on the line of scrimmage for a little longer than most.
Why did they name the five-yard bumping zone rule after former Pittsburgh Steeler's corner Mel Blount?
The rule should be named after Brown, because he is the one that invented bump-and-run coverage and was best at it. That is why he was a Raider defensive backs coach for so long and helped to develop so many great Raider corners after him.
Besides leading the 1976 Raiders to a Super Bowl win, Brown ended his Raider career tied for first in team history with 39 interceptions.
Brown is ranked No. 19 in the NFL all time with 54.
He made four All-Pro and seven Pro Bowl teams in the process.
3. Tim Brown
Tim Brown is the No. 3 all-time receiver in NFL history and No. 1 all time for the Raiders.
I know I have to recognize Jerry Rice as the best receiver to ever lace them up, but Brown played most of his career with guys like Todd Marinovich, Jay Schroeder, Vince Evans and Jeff George.
Rich Gannon did come in and help get Brown to a Super Bowl in the 2002 season, but it was late in Brown's career and it wasn't for long.
However, Brown did make eight Pro Bowls in his 16 years with the Raiders.
I just can't help but wonder what type of numbers he would have put up with quarterbacks like Steve Young and Joe Montana during his prime.
Don't forget he was a punt returner and a great one in his first nine years.
2-A. Art Shell
Art Shell showed the NFL his true greatness when his 1976 Raiders beat the Minnesota Vikings in the Super Bowl. A big part of why that happened was because Shell prevented fellow Hall of Famer Alan Page from accruing any statistical evidence he even played in the game.
He didn't even get to dive on the pile!
Shell protected Stabler's front side and later Plunkett's blind side as both quarterbacks led the Raiders to Super Bowl wins under his care. Shell's care ended up being worth two All-Pro selections and eight Pro Bowls.
With the vertical offense the Raiders ran, Shell had to protect the quarterback that much longer. He has to be considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest left tackle to ever play the game.
If only he could coach the way he played.
2-A. Gene Upshaw
Gene Upshaw was a huge tackle in his collegiate days. Davis saw his speed and moved him to guard. Many laughed at Davis for putting such a big man at guard back then, but Davis laughed last.
Davis ended up with the best guard to ever play the game and two Super Bowl wins during Upshaw's career. Upshaw's speed made him the perfect escort to Raider halfbacks on outside runs.
He also had the power to run block and the feet to pass block. It didn't end well for Jim Marshall when he faced that combination in Upshaw during Super Bowl 11.
Just as his teammate Shell did to Page, Upshaw prevented Marshall from getting any stats that proved he ever played in Super Bowl 11. Upshaw went on to help the Raiders win one more Super Bowl before his days as a Raider were over.
He had five All-Pro selections as well as seven Pro Bowl appearances in his career.
That's how you exemplify a commitment to excellence.
1. Marcus Allen
I don't care about the feud he had with Davis or the fact that he finished his career with the Chiefs. Marcus Allen was the most complete and best Raider player of all time.
I could make a case for him being the most complete and best NFL player of all time. Many speak of Marshall Faulk being that guy, as he broke Allen's record for total yards from scrimmage.
Many give LaDainian Tomlinson that distinction as he did damage as a runner, blocker, receiver and an occasional passer. Faulk could hold his own as a runner and receiver, but didn't block or throw the way Allen did.
Tomlinson could hold his own running but wasn't a route runner you could split out wide like Allen and Faulk. Allen was also a better passer as Todd Christensen said. "He could throw the ball better than our quarterbacks."
My case and point there is that Tomlinson floated out 15-20-yard passes for touchdowns. I saw Allen, a high school quarterback, throw the ball 60 yards in the air for a touchdown pass to Christensen.
As a blocker, it wasn't close.
While Faulk and Tomlinson did a good job picking up the blitz, Allen knocked out defensive linemen. Bob Golic was a victim who I saw Allen knock out of the game for a while when he was on the Cleveland Browns.
Could you see any of the other two guys line up at fullback to block for Bo Jackson?
Allen is the Raiders' all-time leading rusher and No. 5 in receiving.
His best play was the most memorable in Raider history. He started one way, reversed his field and raced the rest of the way for a 74-yard touchdown to lead the 1983 Raiders to victory over the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl.
He was the running back I was speaking of that rushed for 466 yards and an 8-yard per carry average in the playoffs to help Plunkett to his second Super Bowl victory.
The most impressive thing is how he is the only Raider to pull off the hat trick, winning the NFL's Rookie of the Year, MVP and Super Bowl MVP.
Allen has two All-Pro and five Pro Bowl selections on his resume. Allen is also No. 12 all time in the NFL in rushing and No. 3 in touchdowns despite being benched for five years.
What other running back is enough of a team player to move to fullback after pulling off the aforementioned hat trick?
Allen did whatever he had to do to help the Raiders win, which is what "comittment to excellence" is all about.
That makes Allen the ultimate Raider.
This was the hardest Raider article I've ever written!
There were just so many Raider greats that played in different eras and had different circumstances. There were some guys that played when certain stats weren't kept track of.
Then you have guys that played together and depended on each other for the success they had. This is why I was unable to put some guys above others so I had to put some of the players even.
I had to hurry up and close the article once it was written before I changed my mind!
I hope you enjoyed it.
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