As we continue to wait for training camp to get under way, let’s feed that football craving we each have with some nostalgia! Looking back at teams the Raiders have fielded over the past 23 years, it’s pretty ugly. However bad many of those teams were, there were still some great players that flew under the radar. Before we get to the list, let’s agree on what what we mean by the term ‘underrated’: players who were significantly better than the notoriety they received.
All-Underrated Raiders Team: From 2000, Onward
Quarterback: Jason Campbell
Running Back: Darren McFadden
Fullback: Alec Ingold
Wide Receiver: Jerry Porter
Wide Receiver: Denarius Moore
Tight End: Zach Miller
Left Tackle: Barry Sims
Left Guard: Stefen Wisniewski
Center: Samson Satele
Right Guard: Gabe Jackson
Right Tackle: Robert Gallery
At quarterback, some may argue for Derek Carr. However, you could also argue most reasonable fans would place Carr somewhere in the teens among the league’s signal-callers, which is fair. Considering that, it’s hard to call him the most underrated Raider under center this century. Many fans don’t realize this, but across two seasons, Campbell posted an 11-7 record as the Raiders quarterback. Then, he got injured and was replaced by Carson Palmer, soon to be a forgotten piece of the Silver and Black’s history.
In the backfield, Ingold and McFadden would have made a terrifying duo, yet they have combined for a criminal zero Pro Bowl appearances (though Ingold still has time).
Looking at the pass catchers, Porter never could shake the third-fiddle role he played behind Tim Brown and Jerry Rice. Even when he got the lead role and put up respectable numbers in both 2004 and 2005, nobody noticed because the Raiders had only won a combined nine games over that span. Speaking of guys that flew under the radar on bad teams, Zach Miller toiled away for his first three years in the league. He racked up over 2,000 yards receiving in that span while trying to catch passes from Jamarcus Russell and a who’s who(?!?!) of journeyman quarterbacks. It wasn’t until his fourth season that he finally got his first Pro Bowl nod, despite that not even being his best season.
On the line, you’ll notice a bit of a pattern. Several players are listed at positions that they are not necessarily known for. Stefen Wisniewski, for example, primarily played center for the Raiders. He was decent there, but he actually had his best season as a rookie at left guard. In that same vein, many people view Robert Gallery as a bust because he never became the stalwart left tackle that those drafted second-overall are expected to be. Nevertheless, if you look at his first two years in the NFL, you will see a good-looking right tackle with a lot of promise.
Edge: Derrick Burgess
Edge: Kamerion Wimbley
Defensive Line: Tommy Kelly
Defensive Line: Warren Sapp
Linebacker: Kirk Morrison
Middle Linebacker: Thomas Howard
Linebacker: Napoleon Harris
Cornerback: Stanford Routt
Cornerback: Michael Huff
Strong Safety: Tyvon Branch
Free Safety: Stuart Schweigert
Remember Derrick Burgess? This is a name that seems to have been forgotten a bit by Raider Nation. When you think “Great Raiders edge defenders from 2000 to the present,” two names typically come to mind: Khalil Mack, and Maxx Crosby. Funny enough, neither of them have ever achieved 16 sacks in a season like Burgess did in 2005. Another double-digit sack season that fans forget came the following year with Warren Sapp. He was not as much of a bust with the Raiders as people like to think. Rounding out this group are Wimbley and Kelly. Both were key members of those quietly-stout defenses that carried the Raiders to back-to-back 8-8 seasons in 2010 and 2011.
The linebacker trio of Harris, Howard, and Morrison was probably the easiest group to pick. All three were tackling machines for the Raiders. Somehow, none of the three ever received so much as a single Pro Bowl selection. Unfortunately, they all had their best seasons during that miserable span from 2003-2009, where the franchise did not have a single non-losing season.
We had to get a little creative with the secondary, especially at corner. Stanford Routt’s inclusion may puzzle some, but he actually played well when he wasn’t constantly being targeted playing opposite Nnamdi Asomugha. After him, there really weren’t many options, so we went with Huff. Even though he played safety for most of his career, he ended up being the Raiders’ best corner in 2012. Also, that move allowed us to include two of Raider Nation’s favorite safeties: Tyvon Branch and Stuart Schweigert.
Raiders Special Teams
Kicker: Sebastian Janikowski
Punter: Marquette King
Long Snapper: Jon Condo
Kick Returner: Jacoby Ford
Punt Returner: Johnnie Lee Higgins
‘Seabass’ may not be underrated in the eyes of Raider Nation, but he certainly was by the rest of the football world. In his 17 seasons with the Raiders, Janikowski was selected to just one Pro Bowl. At punter, there were really only three guys to choose from. Shane Lechler is one of the most decorated punters in NFL history, and A.J. Cole is quickly building an impressive resume himself; therefore, King gets the nod by default. However, his average of over 40 net yards per punt during his Raiders tenure makes him more than deserving.
Long snapper is tricky because the position itself is incredibly underrated. Nobody cares who the long snapper is until he gets hurt mid-game like Condo did during the 2012 season opener against the Chargers. He gets the nod for that game alone. Rounding out this team are two fan-favorite returners in Jacoby Ford and Johnnie Lee Higgins. Both were depth receivers that made their money on special teams. As far as the underrated part goes, Higgins had three punt return touchdowns in 2008 and was still denied a Pro Bowl selection.
What are your thoughts on this team, Raider Nation? What would their record be?
*Top Photo: Jose Carlos Fajardo/Mercury News Staff