In the very storied history of the Raiders, one thing has remained true. Whether they are playing in Oakland, Los Angeles, or Las Vegas they will be the team that shakes up the first round. With figures such as Al Davis and Jon Gruden historically calling the shots, the Raiders often take chances others won’t on Day 1 of the NFL Draft. Here’s a few times it worked in their favor.
5. Khalil Mack, Buffalo
This one is very fresh in the minds of many. Mack was a great pick from former general manager Reggie McKenzie. Taken fifth overall in 2014, Mack blossomed into one of the best players in the entire NFL. In his four years in Oakland, he recorded 40.5 sacks for a defense that, while never great, has been markedly worse without him. Besides Aaron Donald, it can be argued that Mack was the best player in his entire draft class. Trading him altered the Raiders’ future forever.
4. Marcus Allen, USC
With the tenth overall pick in 1982, Al Davis selected a former Heisman winner from right down the road in Los Angeles. Marcus Allen battled many obstacles in his eleven-year career with the Raiders. This included but wasn’t limited to disagreements with Al Davis, a strike shortened seasons, and Bo Jackson. He finished his tenure with 8,545 rushing yards and 97 touchdowns. His list of accomplishments includes Rookie of the Year, MVP, Super Bowl MVP, and, eventually, a Hall of Famer.
3. Tim Brown, Notre Dame
A former Heisman winner while in South Bend, Brown would go on to earn the moniker of “Mr. Raider”. While it took him some time to settle in, he was able to record more than 1,100 yards every year from 1993 to 2001. This feat is more impressive when you consider the revolving door of quarterbacks during most of that time. One of Jon Gruden’s favorite players, Brown followed him to Tampa for a year to end his career. Despite waiting far longer than he should have, he was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
2. Charles Woodson, Michigan
Only one player in the history of college football has won the Heisman Trophy while playing defense. That player was Charles Woodson. Woodson, who spent his first eight years in Oakland, became one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He would then leave for the Green Bay Packers, where he won a Defensive Player of the Year award as well as a Super Bowl ring. In a story book ending, “24” returned to Oakland for the final three years of his career. This was hardly a farewell tour however, as Woodson turned himself into one of the best free safeties in the league. One of the greatest ball hawks of all time, Woodson was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2021.
1. Gene Upshaw, Texas A&M-Kingsville
Selected in the eighth ever NFL Draft, Gene Upshaw became, maybe, the greatest Raider of all time. A dominant force along the offensive line for fifteen years, he was a crucial part of the Raiders first two Super Bowl teams. After retiring, he was a no brainer to be entered into the Hall of Fame and became a leader of the NFLPA. With the 17th overall pick, it doesn’t get much better than a fifteen year starter, six Pro Bowls and three first team All-Pro nods.
While the recent struggles are in the forefront of most Raiders fans minds, it is always good to take a trip down memory lane and realize that a teams fortunes can be changed with just one single selection. Maybe, this will be the year Gruden and Mayock get it right on day one of NFL Draft.
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