Oakland Raiders: 3 Best Running Backs In Franchise History


Bo Jackson. Photo: George Rose/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders are a team blessed with a great history. They have had countless legends put on the iconic silver and black uniform, from Daryle Lamonica to active legends like Sebastian Janikowski. The Raiders have always been trend setters and trail blazers, a franchise that took an unconventional approach to scouting and free agency. While in recent years that approach led to failure, the past was littered with success stories.

This was apparent at no other position more so than at running back. The Raiders always put more emphasis on physical talents and the tangible elements of an athlete. Trying to decide on the three best running backs out of the rich history, is very difficult so we’ll take an unconventional approach:

3. NAPOLEON KAUFMAN (1995-2000)

Kaufman was the third best in my opinion, due to his amazing speed and athleticism. Kaufman, now an ordained minister, was a track athlete for the University of Washington Huskies. He was a Heisman candidate in his senior year but missed out due to injury.

In 1995, Kaufman was drafted by the Raiders in the first round. He went on to have a very sturdy six year career before retiring in 2000 to become a minister. Today Kaufman serves as the the Raiders’ team chaplain.

For his career, Kaufman complied impressive numbers with 4,792 yards rushing, 11 touchdowns, and an average of 4.9 yards per carry. Kaufman, at 5’9”, was not a big guy so his touchdown numbers did suffer due to his limitation in goal line situations. In his final year with the Raiders, Kaufman averaged an amazing 5.4 yards per carry on 93 carries.

Kaufman retired to become a minister, giving up the great privilege of playing in the NFL, for his dream of serving something greater.

2. BO JACKSON (1987-1990)

Is there a bigger enigma in NFL history than the great Bo Jackson? Jackson’s career, while short-lived, was explosive. Bo was, inarguably, one of the greatest athletes of all-time. To put Jackson’s talents in words is an impossible task. He excelled in the NFL and the MLB simultaneously.

For the Raiders, Bo only put up 2,782 yards and 16 touchdowns, but if not for injury he would have compiled extraordinary numbers. His 5.4 yards per carry is the highest for any back to wear the silver and black.

It’s difficult to justify having Bo Jackson as the second best back in Raiders history but I believe his talents warrant such respect. The small sample of his career notwithstanding, Bo could have been the greatest running back of all-time. That in of itself is testament to how great his potential was.

1. MARCUS ALLEN (1982-1992)

There isn’t a single fan who would deny that Marcus Allen, was the greatest Raiders running back of all-time. In fact, a case could be made that Allen was the greatest Raider of all-time. With the Raiders having such a rich history, that is quite a statement.

Wearing the silver and black, Allen compiled historically great numbers: 8,545 yards rushing, 4,258 yards receiving, 79 rushing touchdowns and 18 receiving scores. With those numbers in addition to his career with the hated Kansas City Chiefs, Marcus Allen stood at the top of the NFL in all purpose yards from the line of scrimmage; a record that was eventually toppled by another great, namely Marshall Faulk.

Allen’s accomplishment on the gridiron was extraordinary. His performance in Super Bowl XVIII was the stuff of legends, including the 74 yard scramble for a touchdown, that has been regarded as one of the greatest plays in the Super Bowl. The accomplishments of Allen were overshadowed in the latter part of his career with the Raiders, but Allen will forever be a Raider great.

Many will disagree with my list but remember, it was meant to be unconventional as the Raiders have been through the ages.

Topics: Bo Jackson, Daryle Lamonica, Marcus Allen, Marshall Faulk, Napoleon Kaufman, Oakland Raiders, Sebastian Janikowski, University Of Washington

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  • Al

    I don’t have a problem with this list, although I might swap 2 and 3. Question. Did Marcus Allen retire as a Chief? Still he’d be #1 on my list too.

    • lorens

      Clearly, you haven’t seen Bo play while as a Raider. I’ve seen both and while I thought Napolean was similar to Barry Sanders, there was no RB that showed so much explosiveness on every hand off than Bo. The crazy thi g about his highlights were that those highlights were a majority of his plays as a raider. He had such a short career because of his injury (I was at that game), and the seaso s he played were partial seasons as well, beacause his involvement with major league baseball. Had he had as long as a season as Marcus Allen, he would b e number one…hands down.

      • Al

        C’mon son!! Of course I’ve watched during the Bo years. My swap would only be based off how long both he and Napolean played.Bo had shortened seasons due to playing baseball. Wish he commited 100% to football.

  • Jordan Holliday

    Swap 1 and 2, and WTF with NAPOLEON KAUFMAN? I guess there might not be another “great” back in Raider’s history, but a dude who played 6 years? Then retired in his prime? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love Jesus(!) but GOD gave him the talent and he left the game….. not worthy in my book. I would say based off of injury, inconsistency, and, again, lack of “great” Raiders backs, Mcfadden is/was/will be just as if not better then Kaufman. Winning by default is not a worthy win…in my book.

    • Jordan Holliday

      I say swap 1 and 2 because: we never saw Bo’s talent go away. He seemed to only get better before his injuries.

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