Back in the Raiders Vault once again. This time we’re looking at the four greatest offensive players from the 90s.
Just like in the last installment, we will use the same adjusted methodology from last year’s Greatest Raiders of all time article. We will use the same categories, but narrow our focus to just offensive players and their careers from 1990 to 1999.
Steve Smith, Fullback, 1990-93, Score: 15/25
Looking at strictly the 1990s, Smith was far and away, the Raiders’ most productive fullback. What truly held him back from gaining a higher score was that he simply didn’t play a position of high importance. That being said, he was still the only Raider from this decade to qualify for honorable mention.
While he may have played an unsung role, Smith was one of those players that former teammates have nothing but praise for, including Bo Jackson, whom Smith blocked for. Former Raiders teammates have even come to Smith’s aid after his retirement, as he has been battling ALS for nearly 20 years.
Now we’ll move to the top four, which is actually five this time due to a tie.
T4. Napoleon Kaufman, Running Back, 1995-99
A. Greatness Relative to Team: 3
B. Greatness Relative to Position: 5
C. Personal Accolades: 1
D. Team Success: 2
E. Time Spent With Raiders: 5
Kaufman was drafted by the Raiders in 1995 and spent his entire career with the team. Most of that time was in the 90s. For the bulk of his career, he was the team’s primary running back, and he totaled over a thousand yards from scrimmage in three consecutive seasons from 1996-98.
The two things that hurt his score were ‘team success’ and ‘personal accolades’. The Raiders teams of the mid-90s simply weren’t that great and one could argue that “Nip” was snubbed from the Pro Bowl in ’97, where he amassed almost 1700 total yards and scored eight touchdowns. Kaufman still did enough to earn the title of “Greatest Raiders Running Back of the ’90s.”
T4. Ethan Horton, Tight End, 1990-93
I’ll be honest, Horton, much like Steve Smith, was one of those players that I didn’t really know much about before researching this piece. After seeing his numbers, I did some more digging and was surprised I hadn’t heard much about him before. Horton was initially a running back and was actually out of the league before coming back to the Raiders in 1989 and converting to tight end. He would, of course, wind up becoming a Pro Bowler a couple of years later because this was back when Al Davis’ projects and experiments were still working regularly.
You could argue that Horton was the best Raiders tight end of the 90s, although Rickey Dudley has a decent case as well. What got Horton the nod over Dudley was his Pro Bowl season coupled with the fact that he was on better Raiders teams in the early 90s.
3. Don Mosebar, Center, 1990-94
Mosebar may have played the bulk of his career in the 80s, but the five seasons he played in the ’90s were still great. Over those seasons, he made two Pro Bowls and averaged an approximate value of eight per season according to Pro Football Reference. Not only was Mosebar the best Raiders center of the 90s, but you could also make a case that he was the best Raiders center of all time.
2. Steve Wisniewski, Guard, 1990-99
Of course “Wiz” was going to be high on this list. He was a dominant force for the entirety of the 1990s, with a whopping six Pro Bowls and two All-Pros, as well as being named to the NFL’s ’90s All-Decade team. He would probably be in the Hall of Fame by now if he didn’t have such a reputation for being a “dirty player.” Wiz is by far the best Raiders guard of the 90s and probably the best Raiders offensive linemen of that decade too.
1. Tim Brown (duh), Wide Receiver, 1990-99
Of course Tim Brown is at the top of this list. Heck, last year I had him tied for third greatest Raider of all time. The 90s were his primary decade and he was one of the best receivers in the league for pretty much its entirety. He’s one of the few players in Raiders history where you can definitively say that he was the clear-cut best player on the team for most of his career. This is also probably a factor in him not winning a ring with the Raiders, giving him a ‘three’ for ‘team success’.
Some might say that Brown should not receive a ‘five’ for ‘personal accolades’ because he never received All-Pro honors. However, I’m giving him a pass because the 90s were by far the greatest decade for wide receivers ever. Also, Brown was on the All-Decade team and has the ultimate accolade, a gold jacket. Ultimately, when we think of great Raiders offensive players of the 90s, Brown is in a league of his own.
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