Top 10 Raider drafts, Part II

The late, great Gene Upshaw was part of the best draft class in Raiders history and went on to become a Hall of Famer on the field and a driving force for the players union off it. Find out who else was part of that illustrious group in this second of a two-part series by SBI's Michael Wagaman, which examines the team's Top 10 drafts.

In celebration of the Raiders' 50th anniversary, SBI's Michael Wagaman compiled the Top 10 drafts in franchise history. The first half of that group, the classes ranked 6th-10th, were solid but the Top 5 stand alone on their merit.

Here's the Top 5, in reverse order:

· 5

· 1988: The fifth spot in this list goes to a group that didn't score any hits after the first round, but what a first round it was. With three picks in the opening round to work with, Davis grabbed Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown with the first selection, followed it up by grabbing cornerback Terry McDaniel then added defensive end Scott Davis with the last of the three. Brown, of course, went on to break every conceivable receiving record in franchise history and could land up in the Hall of Fame. McDaniel, while never an elite corner, was nevertheless one of the best in the business for much of his career and was one of the best tacticians on the field despite his relative small size. Davis was a beast for the Raiders early in his career but ran through some personal issues, got punched out at practice by linebacker Greg Biekert in 1994, and was never the same.
· 4

· 1974: Once again, it was quality over quantity. Start with tackle Henry Lawrence, the team's first-round pick. Lawrence was voted to the Pro Bowl twice during his 13-year career but he was routinely one of the toughest linemen the Raiders had. He was easily the most recognizable, what with each of his arms wrapped in thick padding he used to knock defenders around with. Hall of Fame tight end Dave Casper was a second-round pick who, like Tatum, helped revolutionize his position. He scored only 52 touchdowns in his career but averaged almost 40 catches and more than 500 yards a season while becoming known for the "Ghost to the Post" play not to mention his infamous fumble-turned-touchdown Holy Roller against San Diego. After Casper, Oakland grabbed running back Mark van Eeghen with its third pick then snatched up wide receiver Morris Bradshaw in the fourth. Van Eeghen led the Raiders in rushing from 1976-80 while Bradshaw was a valuable reserve for eight seasons.
· 3

· 1971: This group was judged more on quality rather than quantity. Only three players stood out from the class of ‘71 but what a trio it is: Jack Tatum, Phil Villapiano and Clarence Davis. All three were elite players who made major impacts on the field and in the locker room. Tatum, who capped a stellar college career at Ohio State when he was made the first pick of the Raiders, would go on to become arguably the greatest safety to ever play in the NFL. His omission from the Hall of Fame is simply unforgivable as he revolutionized the position and gave the Raiders a swagger they still have today. Villapiano was a four-time Pro Bowl pick who to this day is as passionate about the Raiders as any player, current or former, while Davis was a solid running back who doubled as a kickoff returner.
· 2

· 1977: There weren't any Hall-of-Famers in this class though some, particularly Al Davis, would argue that. Safety Mike Davis, who made the key interception of Cleveland quarterback Brian Sipe to ensure the Raiders' trip to the AFC championship in 1980, was a second-round pick and one of seven players Oakland picked up in the draft who wound up playing key roles for the team. Long-time guard Mickey Marvin was grabbed in the fourth round, five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Lester Hayes was a steal in the fifth round while linebacker Jeff Barnes was also picked up in the fifth. The Raiders then grabbed role players Rich Martini in the seventh and Terry Robiskie in the eighth, but one of the biggest moves the team made was selecting linebacker Rod Martin with the first of two 12th-round picks. All Martin did was anchor the Raiders defense through much of the 1980s, highlighted by his Super Bowl-record three interceptions in 1980. Oakland's other 12th-round pick that year? Kicker Rolf Bernirschke, who didn't play a single second for the Raiders but later found success with AFC West rival San Diego.
· 1

· 1968: A season after making their first-ever appearance in the Super Bowl, the Raiders laid the groundwork for future success -- not to mention their first world championship -- with a draft that produced one Hall of Famer, arguably the best fourth-quarter quarterback in history and a handful of other key players that were instrumental in what the team did in the 1970s. Ironically, none of them were first-round draft picks. Quarterback Ken Stabler was a second-round pick followed by future Hall of Fame offensive lineman Gene Upshaw in the third. Those two selections alone were enough to make this a solid draft class, but throw in safety/punt returner George Atkinson, a seventh-round pick, and fullback Marv Hubbard (11th round) and one can see why this group is at the top of our list. Even the fourth-round pick that year, running back Charlie Smith, ended up staying with the Raiders for seven years. Solid, solid draft no matter how you slice it.


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