The top 50 Raiders first round picks: 50 through 26

A few things to note before I get started on the Raiders draft rankings:  

  • I produced this list based on several draft rankings that  I have seen over the years.  To my knowledge, no site has produced a ranking of the Raiders first round picks so please remember that you read it here at blackholebanter.com FIRST.

  • I have excluded Amari Cooper, Mack and Karl Joseph because it is too soon to tell what their placement on this list could be.

  • All of these choices are subject to speculation, no ranking like this is perfect so keep in mind that I spent a lot of free time putting this together.  Therefore, if you don’t agree with any or some of them I completely understand and I am open to a fair, respectful debate about any or all picks.  

#50: Bob Buczkowski:  I devoted a recent article to Bob, who was drafted 24th overall by the Raiders in the 1986 draft.  Al Davis took Buczkowski because he hoped that he could help veteran Howie Long put pressure on the quarterback.  Thankfully for Raider fans, Long didn’t need a whole lot of help back then because he got very little from Buczkowski.  Buczlowski only started two games, had one sack as a Raider and 1.5 for his whole career.   In recent years, (2007) he was busted for running a prostitution ring in Pennsylvania.

#49: Eldridge Dickey: NFL Films will give the Raiders organization credit for drafting the first black quarterback in the first round but that is all the credit they deserve for this choice.  Dickey was mobile, accurate and he possessed the arm that motivated Al Davis to draft him 25th overall.   However, Davis didn’t try him out at quarterback.  Instead, Dickey made a conversation to wide receiver and the conversation didn’t go so well.  Dickey was neither happy or effective there, starting two games, catching five passes for 122 yards and he appeared in only 18 games as an NFL player.  He was let go by the Raiders after the 1971 season. The Raiders wisely drafted Kenny Stabler in round two of the 1968 NFL Draft and 48 years later he would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

#48: John Clay: Weighing in at 300 pounds and standing 6’5 one would think Clay would have been a game buster when the Raiders took him 15th overall in the 1987 NFL Draft.  Instead the Raiders got their second straight first round bust (Bob Buczkowski was drafted one year earlier).   The Raiders had a massive void at both tackle spots and Davis hoped that Clay would fill that need.  Clay lasted one season, started only nine games and looked lost throughout his rookie campaign.  The Raiders quickly traded Clay to the San Diego Chargers in exchange for star offensive lineman Jim Lachey in what was one of the wisest trades ever made by Al Davis.  Clay was a flop and out of football after 1988.

#47: Todd Marinovich: “Robo QB” as he was later dubbed by Sports Illustrated was literally bred to play quarterback in his mother’s womb.  His father made put Todd on a workout program as soon as the toddler could sit up because he was obsessed with the desire to have his son play professional football.  However, during his college days Marinovich had several run ins with the law and rumors began to surface (mostly true) that he was a cocaine addict.  The Raiders drafted him 24th overall in 1991 to fill a major need at quarterback and Marinovich looked the part in his first start by throwing three touchdown passes in a loss to the Chiefs.  The cocaine abuse was his ultimate demise and eventual release by the Raiders in 1993.  I recently devoted an article to Marinovich here.

#46: JaMarcus Russell: Personally I have had arguments with fellow fans if Russell was better than Marinovich.  For me the easiest defense for this ranking is statistics.  Russell posted more numbers, played in more games and did more overall than Marinovich.  Al Davis selected Russell first overall in the 2007 NFL Draft to turn the Oakland franchise around.  Russell did possess a powerful arm, he could even throw the ball 60 yards from a kneeling position, which made him a prototype Al Davis quarterback.  After signing a huge rookie deal, Russell struggled in his limited appearances as a rookie.  He improved slightly during his second season but during his third he regressed to the point that the Raiders could no longer keep him on the roster.  Following his 2010 release, the man drafted to fix the Raiders had left his team in shambles, going 7-18 as a starter and posting a quarterback rating of 65.2.  I have always felt that Russell was overrated because he really had only one great game as a college quarterback.  In my opinion he is the worst pick in NFL Draft history but he is not the worst pick in Raiders history.  The men that I have previously mentioned did not last as long as Russell did even if Russell took more out of the Raiders bank account.

#45: Patrick Bates: The Raiders took Bates 12th overall in the 1993 NFL Draft to replaced departing free agent Ronnie Lott.  Ronnie went on to the Hall of Fame and Bates soon entered the NFL’s scrap heap.  The biggest problem with Bates was his personality, he just didn’t seem to care and it showed on game day.  He intercepted only one pass for the Raiders during his total of nine games with the Raiders.  By the time he left the Raiders the only thing that Bates could blame for his failures were the Raiders.  In reality, the only blame they deserved was drafting Bates in the first place.  In 2008, ESPN named him the 37th of the top 50 busts in NFL draft history.

#44: DJ Hayden: When the Raiders took Hayden 12th overall I was very worried.  The Raiders desperately needed a cornerback in the 2013 draft but the questions surrounding Hayden’s health alone should have made the Raiders look elsewhere.  Raiders’ General Manager Reggie McKenzie bet on Hayden’s upside, making him the second cornerback taken off the draft board.  Unfortunately, Hayden could not stay healthy, missing 8 games in 2013 and 6 more in 2014.  When Hayden did play, he got beat repeatedly and often.  DJ recorded just 3 interceptions and 25 starts for the Raiders before the team let him test free agency.  In 2017, Hayden signed a deal with Detroit and the jury is still out if he can ever make it as an NFL player.

#43: Derrick Gibson: The Raiders drafted Gibson 28th overall after going 12-4 the previous year.  To be a solid strong safety you have to be a big hitter or good in coverage and Gibson was neither.  I always knew that every time Gibson lined up against Tony Gonzalez that he would likely get beat and often he did.  Gibson started only 32 games in five years with the Raiders and his pathetic numbers show that he recorded only three interceptions during that entire time frame.  For a first round draft pick that is horrible.

#42: Tony Lorick:  Tony was a running back that the Raiders took with the 7th overall pick in the 1964 AFL Draft.  In those days good players were drafted in both leagues and they could choose to play for either an NFL team or an AFL team.  Lorick went with the NFL and his six years in the NFL produced 2,124 yards on the ground in 83 career games.  Lorick never wore the silver and black.

#41: Joe Rutgens: Taken by the Raiders with the 4th overall pick of the 1961 draft, Rutgens chose to go the NFL route instead.  He went on to play nine years with the Washington Redskins, making two Pro Bowls and helping the ‘Skins make the playoffs twice.  He never wore the silver and black.

#40: Roman Gabriel:  Until the NFL and AFL agreed to hold a common draft (1967) both leagues tended to draft the same players in their respective drafts.  Gabriel was no exception as a highly prized quarterback in 1962 and Oakland took him first overall, a feat that they later repeated with JaMarcus Russell 45 years later.  Oakland recorded only 8 wins in 28 possible games during their first two years of play and they desperately needed something to get their pathetic offense going.  Gabriel wisely chose to collect bigger money in the NFL by signing with the Rams and leaving the Oakland Raiders empty handed.  It will never be known how good Gabriel would have been as a Raider because he never played for the team.  However, he did lead the Rams to three straight playoff appearances in the late 1960s and he led the Eagles to another in 1973.  He played 16 years in the NFL, throwing for just over 29,000 yards and 200 touchdowns.   Not bad numbers for a quarterback of that era.

#39: Jessie Hester: Drafted in 1985 to replace the retiring Cliff Branch, this wide receiver was a classic Al Davis wideout.  Hester could outrun a gazelle and he actually had good hands but he struggle with route running early on and by the time his rookie deal ended he hadn’t done much to justify being picked 23rd overall.  Hester’s 39 games in Los Angeles produced only 56 receptions and 10 touchdowns.

#38: Rodger Bird: Al Davis was known to take risks in the draft by taking players that were better athletes than they were football players.  Bird might have been the first Davis draftee to fit that maxim but after strapping on silver and black for the first time it was painfully clear that he wasn’t much more than that.  Bird lasted just three seasons with the Raiders after the team took him 63rd overall in the first round of the 1966 AFL Draft.  Yes, 63rd was not a typo, just check out his biography on Profootballreference.com.  Bird was a talented return man, leading the AFL in punt return yardage during his rookie and sophomore campaigns in Oakland.  His 612 punt return yards in 1967 still ranks as the fourth best ever posted by a Raider during the regular season.  Injuries plagued him after the 1968 season and he never regained his health to continue playing.  He did contribute 8 interceptions and one touchdown (via punt return) to go along with 8 starts in 38 game appearances.

#37: Rolando McClain: Taken 8th overall in 2010, McClain was supposed to help shore up the Raiders liabilities with stopping the run.  Instead McClain just added to the problem and his off the field troubles caused even more issues.  What is sadly funny about this pick was that it followed a string of poor first round picks by late owner/GM Al Davis, the selection of McClain was applauded by many analysts because he had won just about every major collegiate award that a linebacker can win.  In the NFL though, he looked more like a high schooler playing against the NFL’s all-time team.   The Raiders let him go after he played just 41 games for the team in his three seasons.

#36: Curt Marsh: Oakland drafted him 23rd overall in the 1981 draft, just two picks after Watts and the two of them will likely forever remain locked together as a blemish on the reputation of the Raiders.  To put it frankly, Curt Marsh was terrible but he did suffer debilitating injuries that he never seemed to heal properly from.  Even mentors like Gene Upshaw, Art Shell and Jim Otto couldn’t make Marsh into an adequate NFL starter.  Marsh was let go after the 1987 season after making just 29 pathetic starts in 45 career games.

#35: Matt Stinchcomb: The 1999 Raiders had just signed free agent Rich Gannon from the Chiefs and seeking to protect him better they drafted, Matt Stinchcomb, the highest graded offensive lineman in the 1999 draft.  Stinchcomb was a great player at Georgia but he blew out his shoulder during his senior campaign and he just was never the same player after that.  Stinchcomb sat out his entire rookie season with the Raiders when it was discovered that he needed to have another surgery conducted on that injured shoulder.  Afterwards, the Raiders gave him plenty of chances, moving him all across the offensive line during his five year career with the team but he never found his niche.  His failure would ultimately result in influencing Davis to roll the dice again by taking Robert Gallery in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft.  In a way both players are very similar when you consider the fact that both times Al Davis rolled the dice in this way he came up snake eyes.  He managed just 20 starts in 49 games with the Raiders.

#34: Ted Watts: Al Davis thought that he shocked the world when he drafted Watts 21st overall in 1981.  The Raiders had just won Super Bowl XV and Davis was hungry for more championships.  Watts was a defensive back with speed to burn but he struggled with man/press coverage and when it became clear that he was a coverage liability, the team made him a permanent benchwarmer.  Al Davis was later forced to make a trade with the Patriots for Mike Haynes, who ended up replacing Watts for good in 1983.  In all, Watts made just 22 starts in 57 possible games.  He did accompany the team to Los Angeles and he was a member of the Raiders team that won Super Bowl XVIII.  Watts intercepted just 4 passes in his entire Raiders career and the number of touchdowns he gave up will never be known.  Rest assured though that it was a lot!  Davis traded Watts to the Giants for a lower round draft choice and good ole’ Teddy was out of football by 1988.

#33: Fabian Washington: Drafted 23rd overall in 2005, Fabian Washington was a classic Al Davis draft pick after he posted a 4.29 40 at the NFL combine.  He had speed to burn and every Raider fan wanted him to be as successful as he was at the University of Nebraska.  Instead, all the Raiders and Al Davis got was 3 seasons, 5 interceptions and 30 starts.  He went on to play three years in Baltimore before his career mercifully came to an end.

#32: Neal Colzie: The Raiders “Soul Patrol” was the given nickname for the team’s 1970s secondary.  Colzie was drafted to join the likes of Jack Tatum, George Atkinson, Skip Thomas and Willie Brown.  Unfortunately, the team really didn’t need Colzie when they drafted him 24th overall in 1975.  Colzie was regulated to the bench but he did serve as the team’s starting punt returner for several years.  The Raiders tried to pair him with Lester Hayes following the retirement of Willie Brown and Skip Thomas but Colzie struggled.  When he left in 1979, he was the Raiders all-time leading punt returner but as a cornerback he was average at best.  He did help both Miami and Tampa Bay make three playoff appearances combined between 1979-1981 but that was about it.  If you want to know more about Neal Colzie, I recently wrote another article about him here.

#31: Darrius Heyward-Bey: Al Davis had an obsession with speed and as he approached his final few years of owning the Raiders that philosophy didn’t change.  When Heyward-Bey was taken 7th overall in the 2009 draft I was shocked.  My feelings were justified when scouts and NFL analysts were left scratching their heads over this pick.  Heyward-Bay just was not highly touted coming out of the University of Maryland. The one known skill about him was his speed. Outside of this known aspect of his game, he did not have much else to offer and he still doesn’t have much to offer.  After just four seasons with the team, Reggie McKenzie wisely let him go because he just wasn’t worth the money.  Bey averaged just over 2 receptions for 37 yards during his brief 56 game stint in Oakland.

#30: Phillip Buchanon: His NFL career is littered with nicknames like P-Toast, and my favorite, P-Burnt.  He had speed to burn and every Raider fan wanted him to be as successful but like Fabian Washington, who was picked a few years later, he was routinely burned on pass plays and his ability to step up and stop the run was as questionable as Deion Sanders.  Pretty much he was a bust, wasn’t very good for the Raiders but an occasional big play would put him in the limelight.  During his short three year stint in Oakland he returned four interceptions for touchdowns and he added three more scores via punt returns.  However, those plays didn’t offset the fact that Buchanan was taken 17th overall in 2002.  He was just plain bad.

#29: Tyler Brayton: Drafted 32nd overall in 2003, good old Tyler Brayton looked imposing at defensive end in his Raiders uniform and his 6’6”, 280 pound frame.  In fact, when I first saw him in silver and black he looked like the second coming of John Matuszak.  I have to admit the kid played hard but he didn’t bring much to the table.  Five years in Oakland produced only 6.0 sacks and a failed attempt to move him to linebacker.  His most famous moment was an 2006 on the field scuffle with former Seahawks tight end Jermey Stevens.  On national television, Brayton kneed Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens in the groin after Stevens had kneed him, and was ejected.  A few weeks later, Brayton was ejected from the Raiders for good.

#28: Napoleon Harris: Drafted 23rd overall in 2002 (Phillip Buchanon was just picked at 17th overall), Harris was supposed to shore up the biggest weak spot in the Raiders defense.  The inside linebacker played well his rookie season, starting 13 games and helping guide Oakland to Super Bowl XVIII.  During the Super Bowl, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers exposed the fact that Harris was just not that good by pushing him aside as they churned out their powerful running attack.  Usually out of position, the Raiders had wasted another first round pick on a player who was better suited for the later rounds.  Harris lasted just three seasons with the team. However, he re-signed with them in 2009 but was released for not being in shape.  In the end, he just didn’t seem dedicated enough to be a good player.  

#27: Robert Gallery: The failure of former first round draft pick Matt Stinchcomb likely forced the Raiders hand in 2004 when they selected Gallery with the 2nd overall pick.  Even the experts didn’t criticize this pick because the Raiders were looking at shoring up a leaky offensive line. Coming off a particularly bad season (4-12), they looked at this behemoth from the University of Iowa as the man to fix their problems.  He was the highest rated offensive linemen in the draft but as soon as he was put on the field it was clear that the tackle spot was not his place.  He was routinely beat by fast, physical pass rushers and in the NFL you cannot play tackle if you cannot compete against those guys.  After three failed seasons at tackle the Raiders moved Gallery to guard and he became a serviceable player.  Sadly, if Oakland had moved Gallery earlier he might have turned into a pretty good guard.  After 2011 he was out of football following 91 starts in 92 games in Oakland.  The behemoth lasted only eight seasons.

#26: Michael Huff: Raider fans will always be thankful for Michael’s 2011 game saving interception against the Houston Texans.  The team was playing without Al Davis for the first time since 1963 and Huff saved the day with only 10 men on the field.  Legend has it that Al Davis was on the field that day and I have always felt that his spirit helped elevate his former first round pick (Huff) into a great player for just one play.  Regardless, the Raiders really have not had any luck drafting safeties since taking Jack Tatum 19th overall in 1971.  Huff was moved back and forth between safety spots and free agents like Gabril WIlson usually pushed him to the bench.  He was hailed as an exceptional talent and for being equipped as an astonishing athlete (4.34 40 yard, 21 reps, 40.5″ vertical).  Huff actually was pretty good at covering opposing receivers but his  biggest weakness was his tackling; which was often high and that made him extremely unreliable and opposing offenses found ways to take advantage of him.  Huff started 93 of 108 games in Oakland, recorded 5.5 sacks and 11 interceptions for a paltry 75 yards.

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