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What are the best NFL draft classes in Raiders history?

The Raiders have a long and complicated draft history.

Far more of their classes have turned out disastrous than delightful. But they’ve still discovered some gems in their quest to assemble winning rosters.

The Raiders have been far more successful some years than others.

A list of their best classes is difficult to put together because of how subjective it is. Is landing a superstar more important than adding several solid starters? Is it fair to measure those early American Football League drafts against modern-day classes? Should the Raiders get credit for drafting players who went on to be successful elsewhere?

All interesting questions.

The Raiders drafted four Pro Bowlers in 1962, but it doesn’t feel fair to compare that class to more recent ones.

So let’s try to take a look at the franchise’s top five drafts since the start of the Super Bowl era:

5. 2019

The Raiders found three Pro Bowlers this draft class. One of their first-round picks, running back Josh Jacobs, has been a first-team All Pro as well.

Things could have been so much better. The Raiders had three first-round picks but defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell and safety Johnathan Abram didn’t live up to their draft status.

Two late-round picks in tight end Foster Moreau and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow ended up giving the team surprising value. Moreau became a regular starter in three different seasons and Renfrow appeared in the 2021 Pro Bowl.

The real gem of the class is fourth-round pick Maxx Crosby. He’s become the Raiders’ most important player despite being taken 106th overall.

4. 1971

The Raiders used their first two picks on franchise cornerstones Jack Tatum and Phil Villapiano.

They also helped form the identity of the organization for years to come.

Running back Clarence Davis, who may have been a better blocker than he was a runner, had a case to be the MVP of Super Bowl 11. He ran for 137 yards on 16 carries in the Raiders’ 32-14 win against the Vikings.

3. 2014

The Raiders’ first three picks in this draft have all had long, successful careers.

Khalil Mack is a three-time first-team All Pro and has been to eight Pro Bowls. His good friend Derek Carr was the Raiders’ quarterback for almost a decade and has been to four Pro Bowls of his own.

Gabe Jackson was a stalwart on the offensive line for seven years before moving on.

Shelby Harris, T.J. Carrie and Justin Ellis all had productive careers on the defensive side.

2. 1977

This class produced five players who won multiple championships, headlined by defensive back Lester Hayes.

Hayes, a fifth-round pick, went to five Pro Bowls. He had 13 interceptions in 1980 alone. He’s still tied for the franchise record with 39 in his career.

Linebacker Rod Martin may be the best 12th-round pick in history. He returned four interceptions for touchdowns in a career that included two Pro Bowls.

Safety Mike Davis, linebacker Jeff Barnes and offensive lineman Mickey Marvin were all important pieces throughout the next decade. Davis had a pivotal interception in a 1980 AFC playoff game in Cleveland.

1. 1968

The Raiders made history this draft by making Eldridge Dickey the first Black quarterback to be selected in the first round of an AFL or NFL draft.

The team followed that up by drafting another passer in Ken Stabler, who became perhaps the best signal caller in franchise history.

Stabler wasn’t the only Hall of Famer in this class. The Raiders selected offensive tackle Art Shell in the third round. Shell was a two-time first-team All Pro, went to eight Pro Bowls and won two titles as a player. He later became the first Black head coach in the NFL’s modern era.

Fullback Marv Hubbard, running back Charlie Smith and safety George Atkinson also proved to be solid selections.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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