Top 10 Raider draft classes

The NFL draft is one of the most inexact sciences in all of professional sports. Teams make picks based on hours and hours of poking, prodding, timing, scouting and evaluating then cross their fingers and hope it all pays off. SBI's Michael Wagaman has compiled his list of the Top 10 drafts in Raiders history. Find out how your list compares to his.

Like the other 31 teams in the league, the Raiders have had their fair share of hits and misses in the draft over the years. No one will ever forget the Todd Marinovich disaster in 1991 or the Bob Buczkowski and John Clay whiffs in '86 and '87.

Yet for each of those mistakes, Al Davis and Co. have also struck oil along the way. Bo Jackson as a seventh-round pick in 1987 comes to mind. Lester Hayes as a fifth-rounder and Rod Martin as a 12th-rounder, both in 1977, are two more.

In honor of the Raiders' 50th anniversary, takes a look at the Top 10 drafts in franchise history. Like the drafts themselves, it's an inexact science based primarily on opinion and one which should stir plenty of debate.

Here's the list of Nos. 6-10 in reverse order. The Top 5 will be revealed Wednesday.

· 10

2008: We included this group based more on potential than anything else. First-rounder Darren McFadden has the makings of stardom if the Raiders ever figure out how to use him correctly. McFadden spent far too much time on the sidelines as a rookie but should see his role increase this year, which would help ease the pressure on Russell.

Fourth-rounder Tyvon Branch played primarily on special teams before suffering a season-ending injury as a rookie last year, but now he appears ready to step into a starting role in Oakland's secondary. Meanwhile, sixth-round defensive end Trevor Scott already made his mark on the Raiders' defense, tying ofr the team lead in sacks during his rookie season. And seventh-round pick Chaz Schilens wound up making significant contributions on offense after being inserted into the starting lineup midway through the 2008 season.


· 9

2007: While the jury's still out on several of these players, it's a group that has already paid off significantly for Oakland and has the makings to be the cornerstone for the team to build around.

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell was the first overall pick in the draft but spent most of his rookie season on the bench. He's the team's unquestioned starter now and appears to be more comfortable playing in the NFL now, though he's still got his detractors who question his work ethic and commitment.

Tight end Zach Miller, who was grabbed in the second round, now looks like a steal. Third-rounders Mario Henderson (tackle) and Johnnie Lee Higgins (WR) both had big years for the Raiders last season and should be stars for Oakland for years to come, though both need work. Running back Michael Bush was projected to go in the first round but an injury during his senior season in college dropped him off the radar. The Raiders, who grabbed him in the fourth round, seemed to pull off another coup, as Bush looked very strong in a surprisingly limited role last year. Sixth-round Oren O'Neal played solid as a rookie before suffering a major knee injury last year. He's apparently ahead of schedule on his rehab and could be back in Oakland's lineup in 2009.


· 8

1983: Had it not been for a career-ending eye injury to first-rounder Don Mosebar, this class would have ranked higher.

Mosebar went to the Pro Bowl three times in his first six seasons and was seemingly destined for greatness until he got poked in the eye and suffered a major injury. Though he tried to return after undergoing surgery, Mosebar was never the same as he was earlier in his career.

Still, this is a very solid group. Defensive tackle Bill Pickel was picked up in the second round while defensive end Greg Townsend -- who would go on to become one of the greatest pass-rushers in league history -- was grabbed in the fourth round. Oakland then scored later with wide receivers Dokie Williams (fifth round) and Mervyn Fernandez (10th round), though Fernandez played in the CFL before joining the Raiders four years after originally being drafted.


· 7

1987: If you can get past Clay, the first-round pick, the beauty of this class shines through, beginning with second-round pick Bruce Wilkerson. Wilkerson played eight years and later returned for a second-stint with the Raiders, a solid, blue-collar player who was more steady than stellar. Third-rounder Steve Smith went on to become a great role player and phenomenal lead blocker at fullback while fourth-rounder Steve Beuerlein had some good years with the Raiders before finding future success in Dallas.

But this group gets the notoriety for primarily because of one player: Bo Jackson. Bo had shunned the NFL earlier and instead wanted to concentrate on baseball. Davis wasn't frightened away and took a flier. Two years later Bo joined the Raiders and became an instant legend whose career was later cut short due to injury.


· 6

1972: Some might argue this class deserves to be higher in the list, and while there is some merit to that, it's still a noteworthy group no matter where you slot them. First-rounder Mike Siani never panned out like the team hoped but second-round pick John Vella ended up starting for several years on the offensive line, while center Dave Dalby, the second of two fourth-round picks, wound up being a mainstay in the middle of the O-line.

The guy picked ahead of Dalby, however, sets this class above many others. Wide receiver Cliff Branch was a little-known player out of Colorado who went on to become one of the most prolific receivers in team history and a player who Davis and many Raider fans believe belongs in the Hall of Fame. It's hard to argue the point, either, as the four-time Pro Bowler always seem to have his best games when the Raiders needed him to step up the most. Oh yeah, let's not forget seventh-round Skip Thomas, who was part of Oakland's feared defensive secondary.

Discuss this story and more in the Legends Lodge.

SB Report Top Stories