Greatest NFL Draft steals in Raiders franchise history
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Greatest NFL Draft steals in Raiders history

Raiders, NFL Draft

The 2020 NFL Draft is right on the horizon. At this point, it’s time to down the hours.

And that’s exciting news for football fans, because there might not be a more interesting time in the NFL than draft season.

What can happen, you ask? Well there will inevitably be trades. And there will also be teams reaching for prospects that weren’t expected to go yet, while other prospects fall down the draft board much further than anyone predicted.

The most interesting part is analyzing the draft though. Who were the biggest steals and the biggest busts? This is something you typically can’t look at until a little bit down the road, however.

With that in mind, let’s look at the history of the Las Vegas (formerly Oakland, formerly Los Angeles) Raiders. Specifically, the greatest NFL Draft steals in franchise history.

5. Howie Long

The Raiders selected Howie Long in the second round (48th overall) of the 1981 NFL Draft. To be a steal in the second round, a player needs to put together a great career.

To be considered one of the best steals in a franchise’s history after being taken in the second round, that player need to be one of the greatest to ever do it.

And that’s exactly what Long achieved. The defensive end spent 13 years in the NFL, all with the Raiders.

In that time, Long racked up incredible numbers, including 84 careers sacks (second-most in franchise history) and 10 fumble recoveries and two interceptions.

Long made it to eight Pro Bowls in his career, and was a first team All-Pro twice. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000 and won a Super Bowl in 1983 (that year, he had a career-high 13 sacks).

Long had a long and successful career with the Raiders. And he was an extremely vital role in a prosperous time in their franchise. Due to that, it’s easy to give him credit as a major steal despite being taken relatively early in the 1981 NFL Draft.

4. Jim Otto

Jim Otto is easily the weirdest inclusion on this list. Technically, he wasn’t drafted by the Raiders.

Otto was drafted in the second round by a team that was meant to play in Minneapolis back in 1960. They ended up not becoming a team though.

Due to that, Otto’s draft rights were given to the Raiders. With that in mind, we’re kind of fudging the rules here and going to say Oakland (at the time) used a second round pick on him.

Otto went on to play 15 seasons in the NFL, and all of them were with Oakland. The center made it to an astounding 12 Pro Bowl. Even more impressive, he was a first team All-Pro 10 times.

Otto would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980, and was obviously deserving of the honor.

So although he technically wasn’t drafted by the Raiders, Otto’s draft rights reverted to them. We’re going to count that as he was just too good to not put in this list.

3. Lester Hayes

Let’s get back to something a little more normal: A player the franchise actually drafted.

Lester Hayes was selected in the fifth round with the 126th overall pick in the 1977 NFL Draft. He would go on to be one of the best defensive backs in franchise history.

Hayes was on the Raiders for all 10 of his seasons in the NFL. In that time, he racked up 39 interceptions (including 13 in 1980) and four defensive touchdowns.

The league didn’t officially keep track of pass deflections back then, but it’s safe to assume that number would be pretty high as well. Even without it though, there’s no denying Hayes’ greatness.

He helped lead the Raiders to two Super Bowl rings, including in 1980 when he had all his bakers’ dozen interceptions.

Speaking of those interceptions, 39 is tied for the most in franchise history (Willie Brown also has 39). Meanwhile, 13 in one season is tied for the second-most in NFL history, behind Dick “Night Train” Lane, who had 14 in 1952.

Hayes made it to five Pro Bowls and was a first team All-Pro in 1980. That year, he was also the Defensive Player of the Year.

Although he’s not yet in the Hall of Fame, there’s a pretty strong argument that he should be.

2. Art Shell

Art Shell was selected in the third round of the 1968 NFL Draft at 80th overall. He would go on to play 15 seasons in the NFL, and all of them were with the Raiders.

Shell was an offensive tackle, and an incredible one at that.

He was selected to eight Pro Bowls and two first team All-Pros. Shell was an integral part of winning two Super Bowl rings for the Raiders, one in 1976 and the other in 1980. He was also inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989.

Shell appeared in 207 games for the Raiders, 169 as a starter. He was one of their most reliable players  of the era and gave them some serious stability on the offensive line.

Shell is more than worthy of one of the top spots. In fact, he might have gotten that No. 1 spot on this list if it wasn’t for a certain someone.

1. Bo Jackson

Could it have been anyone else? What’s really funny about Bo Jackson is that while he tops this list, he might be at the top of another team’s list as their biggest bust.

In 1986, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Bo Jackson with the No. 1 overall pick. He never played for them though as a misstep by the franchise forced Jackson to have to miss his final College baseball season. He wasn’t happy about that.

The Raiders scooped him up in the seventh round (183rd overall) of the 1987 NFL Draft as a result. And although he played in just four seasons (all with the Raiders), it’s impossible not to put him at the top of the list.

Jackson ran for 2,782 yards on 515 carries (5.4 yards per carry) and 16 touchdowns. He also had 40 receptions for 352 yards and two more touchdowns.

Jackson was electric. He never got a ton of usage, but did the absolute most with it each time. And on top of that, he was just a star, a main attraction that helped the franchise bring in more money.

Even now, who doesn’t love Bo Jackson? He is still a popular jersey and merchandise seller 30 years after he ever played for the team.

Jackson doesn’t have many career accolades, making just one Pro Bowl. But he was an elite talent and is one of the most popular players of all time.

Let’s not forget, he was also playing baseball with the Kansas City Royals at the time. And he was absolutely killing it in the Majors just like he was in the NFL. There’s no doubt he was a truly special player.

If any team knew they could get his production for four years and unlimited marketing opportunities with a seventh-round pick, they’d jump on the chance.