Oakland Raiders' Top 10 All-Time Players

Carl CockerhamSenior Analyst IFebruary 3, 2011

Oakland Raiders' Top 10 All-Time Players

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    I've seen the Oakland Raiders' top 10 all-time players list on NFL network many times. There have been so many Raiders who have done so many different things that any top-10 list would be hard to do.

    But I had to make my version of the Raiders' top 10 all-time players list, as I couldn't agree with NFL Network. I factored in stats, impact, Super Bowls, All-Pro selections, Pro Bowl selections, clutch plays, memorable plays and degree of difficulty players played under.

    You will agree with some and disagree with others on this list. To be honest with you, I've changed my mind many times by now, but this is what I came up with at the time of writing it.

    Turn the page to see what it is.

No. 10: Dave Casper (Tight End)

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    Dave Casper revolutionized the game, helping tight ends become consistent downfield targets. 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 in his illustrious career. 

No. 9: Jim Plunkett (Quarterback)

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    Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls as a starting Raider quarterback, so that 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 the second Super Bowl run. He also benefited from a running back rushing for 466 yards, four touchdowns and an 8.0-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).

No. 8: Ted Hendricks (Outside Linebacker)

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    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 with 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."

No. 7: Ken Stabler (Quarterback)

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    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 that was around then will ever to forget the "Sea of Hands" game where Stabler squeezed a football into that "sea of hands" 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. There isn't a Raider quarterback in team history who is more clutch.

    His one All-Pro selection and four Pro Bowls keep me from ranking him higher.

No. 6A: Fred Biletnikoff (Receiver)

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    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.

    But his best attribute is his warrior spirit.

    That warrior spirit led Biletnikoff to No. 2 on the Raiders' all-time receiving list and an MVP in the Super Bowl for the 1976 Raiders. 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.

No. 6: Cliff Branch (Receiver)

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    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 do his damage over the middle and in 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 him and Biletnikoff both ranked at No. 6 on the list.

    They played together and neither would have been the same without the other.

No. 5 Howie Long (Defensive Lineman)

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    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 up with 84 sacks in his career, putting him at No. 2 all time for the Raiders.

    Long's efforts helped push the 1983 Raiders into the Super Bowl. 

No. 4: Willie Brown (Corner)

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    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, keeping them on the line of scrimmage a little longer.

    Why did they name the five-yard bumping zone rule after former Pittsburgh Steeler 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 back coach for so long and helped to develop so many great Raider corners after him.

    Besides leading the 1976 Raiders secondary to a Super Bowl win, Brown ended his Raider career tied for first in team history with 39 interceptions.

    He's ranked No. 19 in the NFL all time with 54.  

No. 3 Tim Brown (Receiver)

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    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 'em up.

    But Brown played most of his career with guys like Todd Marinovch, Jay Schroeder, Vince Evans and Jeff George. Rich Gannon did come in and help get Brown to a Super Bowl for the 2002 season, but it was late in Brown's career and it wasn't that 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. 

No. 2B: Jim Otto (Center)

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    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 won the big 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 franchises in the NFL.

    Otto exemplified "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 is 40 surgeries, as the now handicapped Otto says he wouldn't change a thing.

    Now that's "committment to excellence."  

No. 2A Art Shell (Left Tackle)

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    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 to accruing any statistical evidence that 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. 

No. 2 (Gene Upshaw)

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    Gene Upshaw was a huge tackle in his collegiate days, and 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 drive block and the feet to pass block. It didn't end well for Jim Marshall when he faced that combination in Upshaw in Super Bowl XI.

    Just as his teammate Shell did to Page, Upshaw prevented Marshall from getting any stats that proved he ever played in Super Bowl XI. 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 commitment to excellence.

No. 1: Marcus Allen (Running Back)

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    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 football player of all time.

    I could make a case for him being the most complete and best NFL football 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, (blitz pick up) 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 Christiensen said. "He could throw the ball better than our quarterbacks."

    My case and point there is that Tomlinson floated out 15- to 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).

    And 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 a Cleveland Brown.

    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 most memorable play was the most memorable play 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 8.0 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 to go 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 a team player enough 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.

Overview

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    There is my list.

    It may not be perfect, but I'll put it up against any list.

    I didn't go with the Raider rock star legends as I focused more on what the men did on the field. Remember, it's not what they did over their whole career, but what they did as a Raider.

    There are a few who I didn't want to leave off, but didn't quite do enough as a Raider. It was extremely difficult, as you can see that there are more than 10 men on the list.

    I just couldn't leave certain guys off.

    The order can be changed in many ways depending on your mood, but I hope you enjoyed some Raider history anyway.