Our countdown of the best Oakland Raiders draft picks since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger concludes with running back Marcus Allen topping the list at No. 1 ...
Marcus Allen (USC, first round, No. 10 overall, 1982)
The Raiders were still technically calling Oakland home, even if they would play the strike-shortened 1982 season’s home games in Los Angeles. And, yes, the Raiders were on the hunt for a running back in that 1982 draft.
Their top two targets -- Stanford’s Darrin Nelson and Arizona State’s Gerald Riggs -- were already gone by the time the Raiders went on the clock. And even then, the room was split, then-coach Tom Flores once told me.
Many wanted the bruiser from Richmond, Barry Redmond.
The others, they wanted the reigning Heisman Trophy winner out of USC. Kid by the name of Marcus Allen. And even when saner heads prevailed, the Raiders had to get Al Davis on a payphone outside a courthouse in Los Angeles to green-light the pick, Flores told me.
And with that, the Raiders had their best draft pick since the merger, a selection that is now 32 years old and still looking strong.
It paid immediate dividends with Allen being named the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year in 1982 after leading the NFL with 11 touchdowns in the nine games, his winning Super Bowl XVIII MVP honors a year later with 191 rushing yards and two TDs, including his reverse-field 74-yard score, and winning league MVP honors in 1985. That year, he led the NFL with 1,759 rushing yards on 380 carries, and had at least 100 yards rushing in 11 of the Raiders’ last 12 games and his 2,314 yards from scrimmage also led the NFL.
Allen was the face of the franchise, the coolest guy in ultra-hip L.A. and he produced.
Then, it all changed. He was already under Davis’ skin for holding out in training camps and asking to run the ball more -- Davis’ response? Take some laps after practice -- when he essentially cost the Raiders a game by fumbling deep in Philadelphia Eagles territory in 1986, the stuff hit the fan.
The feud with Davis became fodder nationally and Allen again split the room, becoming a sympathetic figure to most, an ingrate to many others.
From 1986 through 1992, Allen saw running backs Vance Mueller, Napoleon McCallum, Bo Jackson, Greg Bell, Roger Craig, Nick Bell and Eric Dickerson all brought in by Davis.
True, Allen was not utilized to the best of his talents after his MVP season by the Raiders, and he experienced a rebirth in Kansas City and went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003. But in being almost an accidental draft pick of the Raiders in 1982, Allen’s mere presence set the tone for the franchise for more than a decade.
His return to the Raiders in 2012, at the behest of the late Davis’ son Mark, to light the torch honoring the former owner brought the story full circle.
Top 5-plus Raiders draft picks since 1970 merger
No. 5: WR Cliff Branch
No. 4: P Ray Guy
No. 3: TE Dave Casper
No. 2: DE Howie Long
No. 1: RB Marcus Allen