I watch the NFL Network all the time and at times I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with many of their choices for their Top 10's. But in thinking of the draft and all the fuss that the Raiders have caused I did some research and personally selected the Top 10 Raider Rookies of All-Time. See if you agree or disagree and by the way, the round that these players were picked in does not matter AND I looked only at their rookie seasons and not their overall impact on Raiders history beyond that time.
10: 1965 Draft pick Linebacker Gus Otto. the forgotten Otto in Raider history. In his rookie season he started all fourteen games and intercepted three passes and scored two touchdowns. He would later become a key player in the Raiders rise to greatness in 1967 an an appearance in Super Bowl II.
09: 1998 Draft pick, cornerback Charles Woodson. This guy came to the Raiders with all the hype and for the most part lived up to it. He was named Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1998 and made the Pro Bowl in his very first season with the Raiders. For a team that had been struggling with getting turnovers and in pass defense Charles Woodson seemed a saviour. He intercepted 5 passes and returned them for 118 yards and 1 touchdown. His first career touchdown came against the Cardinals during a close 23-20 victory. He also forced two fumbles and made 61 tackles.
08: 1970 Draft Pick, tight end Raymond Chester. Mr. Chester is the greatest tight end ever drafted by the silver and black. During his rookie campaign he made 13 of 14 possible starts and caught 42 passes for 556 yards and 7 touchdowns. His team receiving record for a rookie tight end would last until rookie Zach Miller broke it in 2007. During the Raiders playoff run in 1970, Chester added another 4 receptions. He was also named the NFL's Rookie of the Year in 1970. He also made the Pro Bowl during his rookie campaign.
07: 1973 Draft Pick, punter Raymond Guy. The Raiders always have had a knack for drafting kickers in the first round. Who can forget Sea Bass? But the first Raider kicker ever taken in the first round was Ray Guy in 1973. During his rookie year the greatest punter in NFL history punted the ball 69 times for 3,127 yards and averaged over 45 yards per punt. He also rushed 1 time for 22 yards on a punt fake. He appeared in all fourteen games and made the Pro Bowl in his very first season as a Raider. We miss you Ray Guy!
06; 1968 Draft Pick, Safety George Atkinson. Looking for a hard hitting safety, Raiders owner Al Davis drafted Atkinson out of a little school called Morris Brown. During his first season he made 6 of 14 possible starts and led the league in punt return yards and kickoff return average. Atkinson made the Pro Bowl during his very first season and his numbers are unbelieveable. He returned 36 punts for 490 yards and 2 touchdowns. This include a Raider punt return record of 86 yards which would stand until 1983 when Greg Pruitt broke it against Washington. Only Johnnie Lee Higgins and Tim Brown have longer punt returns. He also returned 32 kickoffs for 802 yards for a 25.1 average. In spot duty as a defensive back Atkinson also helped the Raider cause by intercepting 4 regular season passes and returning them for 66 yards and 1 touchdown. His interception return touchdown was the only Raider touchdown during a 13-10 triumph against Buffalo. Atkinson set a Raider record at the time with over 1300 combined yards.
05: 1980 Draft Pick, Linebacker Matt Millin: I might catch some bad vibes for this one but hear me out. As a rookie defensive end converted to middle linebacker, Millin took charge of a veteran defense which included the likes of Ted Hendricks, Lester Hayes, John Matuszak and many other colorful characters. He took charge of that huddle and became the quarterback of that defense as a rookie. His play during games was equally impressive. Millin started all 16 possible games for the Raiders and made tons of tackles. He also intercepted 2 passes for 17 yards. During the Raiders famed 1980 playoff run, Millin was crucial in every game and the icing on the cake was the Raiders victory in Super Bowl 15. This second round pick turned out to be a second round steal.
04: 1983 Draft Pick, Defensive End Greg Townsend: Like Millin, Greg Townsend won a Super Bowl as a rookie but unlike Millin he did not start all 16 games. However, Townsends impact as a rookie was surely felt with 10.5 sacks which was second best to Howie Long's 13.0 sacks. Townsends greatest moment of the 1983 season was a 66 yard fumble return for a touchdown during a key Monday Night game versus Miami. During the playoffs, Greg felt that his 10.5 regular season sacks were not enough. During the Divisional Playoffs against the Steelers he added 1.5 sacks to his rookie total and one week later he sacked Seahawks quarterback Dave Krieg 2 times. During Super Bowl 18 he added 1 more sack to his total which brought him 14.5 sacks as a rookie. Townsend was a beast.
03: 1988 Draft Pick, Wide Reciever/Kick Returner Tim Brown: This is the second Heisman Trophy winner on this list and Brown was worth the price of admission. During his rookie campaign which ended in ANOTHER Raider rookie making the Pro Bowl, Tim Brown was nearly unstoppable. He started 9 of 16 games, caught 43 passes for 725 yards and 5 touchdowns and rushed 14 times for 50 yards and 1 touchdown. When he wasn't busy doing that he returned 49 punts for 444 yards and 41 kickoffs for 1,098 yards and 1 touchdown. The return yards for a rookie is still a Raiders record. In the end, Brown ammassed 2,317 yards from scrimmage and scored 7 times.
02: 1967 Draft Pick, Guard Gene Upshaw: There was a time when the Raiders knew how to pick players. This list proves that in the past they have been able to do it. You don't win the amount of games that the Raiders have and appeared in five Super Bowls in five different decades without having some intellegence. In fact the Raiders have appeared in a AFC/AFL Championship in every decade, the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s. The heartbeat of a football team is its offensive line and during the mid 1960s the Raiders were getting killed by hard nosed defensive tackles like Buck Buchanon. Al Davis drafted Upshaw out of Texas A&M-Kingsville as a tackle but converted him to guard. Upshaw dominated his rookie season by starting 14 of 14 possible games and just missing Pro Bowl consideration. The Raiders crowned that season with a trip to the AFL Championship and a 40-7 thrashing of Houston. The Raiders later appeared in Super Bowl II which would be the first of three Super Bowls for Gene Upshaw or "Highway 63" as his teamates called him.
The number 1 Raider draft pick of all time is 1982 Draft pick, running back Marcus Allen out of USC. The third and final Heisman Trophy winner to appear on this list earned just about ever award that a rookie can win. He was named AP Rookie of the Year in 1982 and like Woodson, Chester, and later Tim Brown he made the Pro Bowl in his very first season. 1982 was a cut short by a strike but that did not phase Allen who started all 9 games for the Los Angeles Raiders and he averaged 4.4 yards on 160 rushes. His 697 rushing yards led all rookies in 1982 and when he wasn't tired he caught 38 passes for 401 yards and 3 touchdowns. Catching 3 touchdowns wasn't enough for Allen because he rushed for 11 more which gave him a Raiders rookie record 14 touchdowns. He also completed 1 of 4 passes for 47 yards and gained a grand total of 1,098 yards from scrimmage. During the Raiders short playoff run in 1982 he hit Cleveland hard with 17 carried for 72 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also caught 6 passes for 75 yards. During a Divisional Round playoff loss to the Jets he added another rushing touchdown to go with his 36 rushing yards and 6 receptions for 37 yards. Marcus Allen scored 17 touchdowns during his rookie campaign and he became the last non kicker to lead the league in scoring. Surely no Raider rookie ever out scored Marcus Allen.
Well gentlemen, when you think of the risks that the Raiders take in the draft you can look at these with a sigh of relief. Could Hayward-Bey or Mitchell ever make this list. We shall see. What are your choices for Top Ten Raider Rookies of All-Time