Top 3 Oakland Raiders Best Draft Classes of All Time
David Wilson – Apr 18, 2012
With the draft fast approaching, instead of giving a prediction or identifying a need, I wanted to look back on the history of Raider drafts.The Oakland Raiders have had their share of success and Championships over the years (albeit not the last few), built with some excellent draft classes. But which was their best ever draft?
Here are my top three, in reverse order. To no one’s surprise it won’t include the year we took Todd Marinovich (1991), or JaMarcus Russell (2007).
3rd Place - 1971
Round 1. Jack Tatum – Safety – Ohio State. Tatum epitomised the Raiders as much as any player whoever wore the silver and black. Nobody ever hit harder than Tatum.who sadly passed away this year. 1971 – 1979. 3 Pro Bowls.
Round 2. Phil Villapiano – LB – Bowling Green. Villapiano was a character on a team of characters. His most famous play was tackling the Vikings Randy Mclanahan on the two yard line and popping the ball loose in the first quarter Superbowl XI. Mclanahan fumbled on the 3 yard line, and the Raiders recovered the ball and the game’s momentum, going on to win convincingly. 1971 –1979. 4 Pro Bowls.
Round 4. Clarence Davis – RB – USC. A gutsy little half back who punched above his weight and was a good blocker as well as a runner. 3,640 yards, and 26 TDs at 4.5 yards per carry. Davis had 139 yds rushing in Superbowl XI, and probably should have won MVP. 1971 – 1978.
2nd Place - 1977
Round 2. Mike Davies – S – Colorado. Davies was just a good starting player on a star studded defense, but he played 8 years as a solid, dependable safety. Best remembered for his interception in the end zone to save the 1980 AFC title game against Cleveland. 1978 – 1985.
Round 4. Mickey Marvin – G – Cal-Davis. Another solid, dependable player who earned two super bowl rings with his rugged, consistent play, and anchored the Raiders offensive line for ten years. Marvin played from 1977 – 1987.
Round 5. Lester Hayes – DB – Texas A&M. Converted from his college position of safety. Hayes still leads the Raiders with 39 career interceptions (jointly with Willie Brown). He had 13 in one season (plus 4 in the playoffs). 1977 – 1986. Five Pro Bowls.
Round 5. Jeff Barnes – LB – California. As a pass defense specialist at linebacker, Barnes stuck on the team for over a decade and was another solid, consistent player from this draft. 1977 – 1987.
Round 12. Rod Martin – LB – USC. Probably the best ever 12th rounder in the history of the draft. Martin played with the Raiders for 12 years, and made 3 interceptions in Superbowl XV against the Eagles, a record that still stands. He made 4 interception returns for TDs in his career. 1977 – 1987. Two Pro Bowls.
1st Place - 1968
Round 2. Ken Stabler – QB – Alabama. Ken Stabler was the face of the Raiders in the 70’s, leading them to 7 AFC title games in 9 years and victory in Superbowl XI. Stabler still holds Raider career record with 19,078 yards and 150 TDs. 1970 – 1979. Four Pro Bowls. NFL most valuable player 1974
Round 3. Art Shell – T – Maryland State. One of the great offensive tackles of all time. . 1968 – 1982. Eight Pro Bowls. A Hall of fame player. Shell was also head coach of the Raiders in two separate tenures.
Round 7. George Atkinson – S – Morris Brown. Hard hitting safety who devised the ‘hook’ method of tackling which was later outlawed. He was vilified by Steelers coach Chuck Noll as the ‘criminal element’ in the league, and played nine years with the Raiders, picking off 30 passes in that time.
Round 11. Marv Hubbard – RB – Colgate. A bruising fullback who totalled 4,399 yards on the ground and 22 TDs at a healthy 4.8 yards per carry. Hubbard played from1969 –1975, making three Pro Bowls.
There are other draft classes that no doubt many will think should belong here (such as 1983), but these three years to me are a cut above the rest.
1971 has three outstanding players in Davis, Villapiano, and Tatum, but in my opinion comes behind 1977. 1977 had only 2 first class players (Lester Hayes and Rod Martin), but provided 5 starters who averaged 10 years apiece with the team.
1968 stands alone with four players who made a massive contribution to the silver and black in every way. Stabler and Shell were as good as any who played the positions during their time in Oakland, Atkinson and Hubbard were high quality players in their own right, and this draft class was silver and black from start to finish..
Maybe one day they let Kenny Stabler into the Hall as he deserves, along with a number of other Raiders.
Cliff Branch, Jim Plunkett, Steve Wisniewski, and Tim Brown belong there too, and everbody knows it.
In Reggie McKenzie’s first draft, the Raider Nation will be hoping he gets somewhere close to one on these elite draft classes.
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