As the Raider Nation sits out another Super Bowl weekend, hopes for next season include the possibilities for the newly minted Las Vegas Raiders’ two first-round draft picks in April — which will be made on the team’s new home turf, no less.
The Raiders are currently slated to pick 12th and 19th overall, with the latter pick coming from the Chicago Bears as part of the 2018 Khalil Mack trade.
Raiders fans could be forgiven for feeling like multiple first-rounders are a regular thing for the team as, thanks to the Mack deal, it will be the second year in a row the Raiders have more than one selection on Day 1 of the draft.
But, assuming the team keeps both choices, it will actually be only the seventh time in the team’s 61-year history that the Raiders have more than one first-round pick. (The 1960 draft did not have a traditional format for the first-year franchise.)
By contrast, the team has not had a first-round pick in nine drafts.
The good news for the Vegas squad is, most of those six previous windfalls have worked out well for the team.
(Photo of rookie running back Josh Jacobs celebrating a touchdown in 2019.)
2019: Clelin Ferrell, defensive end, Clemson (4th overall); Josh Jacobs, running back, Alabama (24th); Johnathan Abram, safety, Mississippi State (27th)
How acquired: In 2019, the Raiders had three first-round picks for only the second time in team history: their own 4th overall pick, the “reward” for finishing 4-12 in 2018, as well as Chicago’s 24th overall choice from the Mack deal and the Dallas Cowboys’ 27th overall selection from the Amari Cooper trade.
After Further Review … It’s way too early to judge last year’s trio of first-rounders, but the picks are looking good so far. Ferrell may not (yet) have lived up to his status as a Top 5 pick, but he started 15 games as a rookie and registered 4.5 sacks on the season. Abrams also started on Opening Day and set a hard-hitting tone from his safety spot — but he was so hard-hitting that it cost him the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury.
Jacobs, meanwhile, became the best rookie running back in Raiders history, racking up 1,150 yards rushing and 20 catches over 13 starts (as he, too, battled a shoulder injury). The only running back chosen in the 2019 first round has been short-listed for every NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honor and, after one year at least, is unquestionably one of the best picks in the draft.
2003: Nnamdi Asomugha, cornerback, California (31st); Tyler Brayton, defensive end, Colorado (32nd)
How acquired: In 2003, coming off a Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Raiders had their own 31st pick … and the Bucs’ final pick in the 1st round as a result of the complicated 2002 trade of head coach Jon Gruden to Tampa.
After Further Review … Brayton certainly had his moments in Silver & Black, starting every game as a rookie and living up to scouting reports as a high-motor run-stuffer before an ill-advised move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense derailed his progress. He spent five years in Oakland, starting at DE in three of them, before leaving as a free agent. After leaving the Raiders, he was a three-year starter with the Carolina Panthers and then spent a final season as a reserve DL with the Indianapolis Colts.
But it was Asomugha who truly shined in the Silver & Black’s storied man-to-man coverage scheme. After a season and a half of reserve duty, he stepped into the starting lineup at corner and became a four-time All-Pro whose meager 11 Oakland interceptions — eight in 2006 alone — merely showed how infrequently teams threw his way. (Think “Revis Island” before Darrelle Revis made that a thing.) He signed a huge free-agent deal with the Philadelphia Eagles after eight years with the Raiders, and spent two years as a starter in Philly, as well as a handful of games with the San Francisco 49ers during his final season in 2013. His prime, and the rapid falloff from it, may not quite be enough for the Pro Football Hall of Fame … but it was a great career for a player so little-known on the day the Raiders selected him that Commissioner Paul Tagliabue mangled his name.
2002: Phillip Buchanon, cornerback, Miami (17th); Napoleon Harris, linebacker, Northwestern (23rd)
How acquired: In 2002, the Raiders traded up twice to get the 17th overall pick, using Tampa’s first-rounder from the Gruden deal among other picks, and then had their own 23rd overall choice.
After Further Review … To be fair, both Buchanon and Harris were top-rated players at their respective positions as draft prospects. For instance, Ourlads Scouting Services listed Harris as the No. 1 LB prospect, either inside or outside, and Buchanon as the No. 3 DB overall and No. 2 CB. That said, as Raider fans are painfully aware, neither played lived up to his advance billing, either in Silver & Black or in the NFL, making this arguably the only time the Raiders whiffed when they had multiple first-rounders. Harris took veteran Greg Biekert’s job at middle linebacker as a rookie, started in Super Bowl XXXVII and kept the position for three years. But he never became a dominant player and — despite a communications degree from Northwestern — developed a reputation for surliness with the media before being traded to the Minnesota Vikings in a 2005 deal for even surlier player, WR Randy Moss (a whole ’nother disaster story). Harris lasted four more years in the NFL, two as a starter, and even spent a few days back in Oakland in 2009 before getting cut one last time and entering politics.
Buchanon also spent three years in Silver & Black, but in contrast to the steady-but-unspectacular Harris, he became famous — and infamous — for both making and allowing big plays as a cornerback and punt returner. The bright side (first detailed by the Raiders Research Project here) is that, over his 36 games with the team, he produced 11 interceptions and returned four for TDs, while returning 72 punts for an 11-yard average and three more TDs. The downside is that the Raiders eventually tired of his mercurial play and traded him, like Harris, at draft time in 2005. Buchanon did spent seven more years bouncing around the league, starting 55 games for four different teams—but only finding the end zone one more time before his career ended in 2011.
1998: Charles Woodson, cornerback, Michigan (4th); Mo Collins, offensive tackle, Florida (23rd)
How acquired: A 4-12 season led to the 4th overall pick for the Raiders, who then traded a pair of second-rounders to Tampa to get the 23rd overall selection.
After Further Review … Collins quickly stepped into the starting lineup at left tackle, but struggled to stay healthy and maintain his starting role before moving to right guard in 2000 — a position better suited to his massive frame — and becoming a road-grader who would eventually start in Super Bowl XXXVII. But injuries continued to plague the big man, and he was out of the NFL by 2004, having played in only 71 games over six years, but starting 64 of them. Sadly, Collins died at age 38 in 2014, adding to the tragic nature of the Raiders’ 1998 draft (second-rounder Leon Bender, a defensive tackle, died after a seizure just weeks after being chosen).
After Further Review … After not having a Top 5 pick since 1965, the Raiders had their second in two years in 1998 — taking DT Darrell Russell 2nd overall in 1997 — and chose Woodson, the first defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy after a superlative season at Michigan. Woodson went on to become one of the finest players in Raiders history, and certainly one of the most beloved, sandwiching two stints in Silver & Black around a superstar turn with the Green Bay Packers. From 1998 to 2005, Woodson lined up at LCB for the Raiders, starting 103 games and intercepting 17 passes during the regular season, while adding seven more playoff starts and a pick in Super Bowl XXXVIII and making four Pro Bowls. He then signed a huge free-agent deal in Green Bay, spending seven season with the Packers as a corner and safety and registering an incredible 38 interceptions in 100 starts, making four more Pro Bowls and earning a championship ring in Super Bowl XLV. Woodson — now a full-time safety — made a much-heralded return to the Raiders in 2013 and added to his Hall of Fame credentials by starting all 48 games in three years and adding 10 interceptions … and one last Pro Bowl trip in his final season of 2015. He should be a first-ballot inductee when he becomes eligible for the HOF in 2021 and is unquestionably one of the finest draft picks and players in the Raiders’ storied history, even if some of his greatest years took place in Green Bay.
1988: Tim Brown, wide receiver, Notre Dame (6th); Terry McDaniel, cornerback, Tennessee (9th); Scott Davis, defensive end, Illinois (25th)
How acquired: The 1987 season was one of the Raiders’ worst in team history — at the time — and gave the team the 6th overall choice; the 9th overall pick was acquired from the Houston Oilers as part of a trade for DE Sean Jones and an assortment of other draft picks, while the 25th selection was acquired as part of deal for WR Dokie Williams and draft picks.
After Further Review … The only other time in their history that the Raiders have had three first-round picks, they added a trio of players who would all make a lasting impression in Silver & Black. The long-haired Davis, the third of the three choices and only non-Top 10 pick, was a hulking 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds, a massive player in 1988. He started for three of his first four years with the team as a DE and DT, racking up 10 sacks one year and 27.5 over four seasons before abruptly retiring at age 26 after the 1991 season. He did mount a brief comeback in 1994, adding 14 games to his career total with the Raiders, before injuries forced him back into retirement. McDaniel, meanwhile, quietly fashioned one of the finest careers in Raiders history, starting for a decade at left corner. The CB, who missed most of his rookie year due to injury, nevertheless started 137 games in total for the Raiders in both Los Angeles and Oakland, intercepting 34 passes and returning five for touchdowns while annually registering 50-plus tackles and making five Pro Bowls and five playoff starts. McDaniel played his final season for the Seattle Seahawks in 1998.
But both Davis and McDaniel were overshadowed by the superlative career of the Raiders’ top pick in 1988, Heisman Trophy-winning receiver and return man Tim Brown. Brown started his career with a bang, earning a Pro Bowl spot as a rookie return man after leading the league in kick returns, while adding 49 punt returns, a team-leading 43 receptions and 14 carries — including scoring TDs on a catch, carry and return. A knee injury on an Opening Day 1989 kick return set back his career somewhat — and ended his days bringing back kickoffs — as it took him until 1992 to reestablish himself as a starting receiver for the Raiders. But, once he did, he never looked back, spending a dozen years as the team’s No. 1 WR and rewriting the team record book. By the time Brown left the Raiders after 16 years in Silver & Black, he held the team career marks for receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns — with no one else even close — and single-season marks for catches and yards. He also holds the team career records for yards from scrimmage, combined net yards, punt returns and yardage. He made nine career Pro Bowls — seven as a receiver and two, including that rookie year, as a returner — and played in his first and only Super Bowl when he started SBXXXVIII at age 36. After leaving the Raiders, he played one season in Tampa Bay in 2004, where he caught his 100th career touchdown pass. Brown was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015. (A bit of trivia: Brown began his Raiders career in 1988 starting alongside Hall of Famer James Lofton and ended it in 2003 starting alongside Hall of Famer Jerry Rice.)
1981: Ted Watts, cornerback, Texas Tech (21st); Curt Marsh, offensive tackle, Washington (23rd)
How acquired: The defending Super Bowl champion Raiders acquired the 21st overall pick as part of the trade haul when they sent TE Dave Casper to the Oilers during the 1980 season, and then used their own pick and a third-rounder to trade up for the 23rd overall selection.
After Further Review … The first time the Raiders had multiple first-round picks came in the wake of the team’s victory in Super Bowl XV, and, like the 2002 selections, neither player became what the team hoped. Watts spent only four years in Silver & Black, starting for two of them, and finished with 22 starts in 57 career games in Oakland and Los Angeles, while getting into six playoff games with two starts. He picked off exactly one pass each year with the Raiders, but did serve as the team’s punt returner as a rookie, including bringing one of his 35 returns back for a touchdown. He was traded to the New York Giants for a draft pick during training camp in 1985, and played a year in New York and a single game in San Diego.
Although Marsh lasted seven seasons with the Raiders, he got into only 45 games in a career plagued by injuries. Despite stepping into the starting lineup at left guard as a rookie — replacing Hall of Famer Gene Upshaw and starting all 11 games he played — Marsh managed only two full seasons as a Raider, including the strike-shortened 1982, when he started all nine games. He missed all of 1983 due to injury, was only a part-time starter when he returned in 1984, then played only nine games combined in 1985 and 1986. He was forced to retire after spending 1987 on IR and eventually had to have a portion of his oft-injured right leg amputated due to the lingering effects of the damage suffered during his career.
(Editor’s Note: As we work to reboot and redesign the Raiders Research Project for 2020, early-year content may not reflect the final plans for the site in terms of both functionality and content. Please bear with us. ~ Ace)
All photos (except as noted) by Bob Carr Photography; used with permission.