Originally published on Silver & Black on Oct. 8, 2013
On this day, two years ago, the Raider Nation lost its leader.
Al Davis passed on Oct. 8, 2011 at the age of 82. At the time, he was the owner of the Raiders as well as the general manager of the team, a title he had held since 1966.
Mr. Davis did a lot for the National Football League, including being one of leading factors that the AFL and NFL merged in 1966. His maverick-style ownership of the Raiders left a rich history and tradition that is still found inside the walls of the Raiders' Alameda headquarters.
Though the organization has seen lots of change since his passing, some of Mr. Davis' draft picks still remain on the roster. Lets take a look at how they're doing.
Tyvon Branch, Safety
Drafted out of the University of Connecticut in 2008 with the Raiders' fourth-round draft selection (100th overall), Branch has turned into an integral piece of the Raiders defense as the starting strong safety.
Branch had his breakout season in 2009 when he started all 16 games and racked up 124 tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles. In fact, Branch recorded over 100 tackles in 2009, 2010, and 2011.
The hard-hitting safety was named a Pro Bowl alternate in 2012 for his play on the field. Branch played in 14 games that season, recording 94 tackles and one interception.
Branch was injured during the Raiders week two contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars this season and remains out with a lower leg injury.
Chimdi Chekwa, Defensive back
Taken in Mr. Davis final NFL draft, Chekwa was selected in the fourth round (113th overall) by the Raiders out of Ohio State University.
Chekwa has had a hard time finding the field in defensive packages but has become a key piece of the Raiders special teams unit this year. Just this last week against the Chargers, Chekwa recovered Eddie Royal's muffed punt.
Through Chekwa's two seasons plus, the young defensive back has totaled 12 tackles, two passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Jacoby Ford, Wide receiver
The speedster from Clemson was selected by Davis in the fourth round (108th overall) of the 2010 draft as one of the fastest draftees.
A former NCAA track star, Ford caught Davis' eye after running a 4.28 40-yard dash at the 2010 NFL combine.
Though often injured, Ford was able to play in all 16 games of his rookie season, hauling in 25 receptions for 470 yards (18.8 yards per reception) and two touchdowns. The speed he possessed also proved useful on returns as he returned three kickoffs all the way back for touchdowns in his rookie year.
With four kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career, Ford is a key piece of the Raiders special teams. Ford's fourth touchdown return came in 2011 as the Raiders returned for their first home game after the passing of Davis. The 101-yard kickoff return against the Browns that week helped seal the 24-17 emotional victory.
Lamarr Houston, Defensive end
Houston has become an integral piece of the Raiders defense after being drafted by Davis in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft, 44th overall.
The former Longhorn is now the Raiders featured pass rusher and has not missed a game in his NFL career yet.
Houston has played in 53 career games and racked up 182 tackles and 13.0 sacks.
After having a previous season-high of five sacks, in his rookie year of 2010, Houston has gotten off to an early start this season and recorded 3.0 sacks in the first five games. With little pass rushing help this season, the Raiders need Houston to continue to develop into a consistent pass-rushing presence.
Houston has also become a leader of the defense with many players noting his ability as a leader and willingness to mentor.
Sebastian Janikowski, Kicker
Not many general managers would take a kicker in the first round, let alone at 17 overall. But that's just what Davis did in 2000 when he selected Janikowski with the 17th-overall selection of the NFL Draft.
Janikowski has turned into one of the league's best kickers and a dangerous weapon for the Raiders.
His powerful leg has earned him a variety of NFL records and has made him the highest scoring player in Raiders history. Janikowski needs just 84 more points to reach the 1,500 mark.
Currently holding a piece of the NFL record for longest field goal make at 63 yards, it wouldn't be surprising if he is able to solely hold the record some day.
Taiwan Jones, Defensive back
Jones was selected in the fourth round (125th overall) of the 2011 NFL draft, the final draft for Davis.
The speedy halfback was believed to be a threat carrying the ball but after some struggles, the current regime decided to move him to cornerback just this year. Jones initially enrolled at Eastern Washington as a cornerback before transitioning into running back.
Jones has shown the ability to play corner and possesses great speed at the position. Raiders head coach Dennis Allen has stated many times that Jones is a great special teams player. Jones has served as a return man for the Raiders and also serves time as a gunner.
Darren McFadden, Running back
McFadden was drafted by Davis fourth-overall in the 2008 NFL draft after his explosive tenure at the University of Arkansas.
When healthy, the back is as explosive as any running back in the league once he finds the hole. McFadden possesses the home-run speed that coaches look for and his ability to run the ball and also catch the ball out of the backfield made him an easy target for Davis.
Currently in his sixth season in the NFL, McFadden has gained 3,549 yards and rushed for 20 touchdowns, while recording 1,495 receiving yards and five receiving touchdown, all in 61 games played.
Terrelle Pryor, Quarterback
Pryor is the last piece of Davis' legacy before he passed. Davis selected Pryor with a third-round selection in the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft, making him Davis' last draft pick before his passing.
Pryor didn't get on the field much his first two seasons but continued to work hard to become the best quarterback possible. Pryor beat out Matt Flynn this past offseason and has become the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders and has continued to impress eyes across the nation with his growth and improvement.
His athleticism makes him an explosive quarterback that is capable of turning even broken-up plays into big gainers. Davis is smiling somewhere while watching his young quarterback, and Pryor wants to do everything he can to make Davis right in selecting him.
"I owe Mr. Davis. This man believed I'd be a star quarterback. He said that to me multiple times. Everyday I'm thankful [for him]," Pryor told Sports Illustrated's Peter King.
Marcel Reece, Fullback
Though he wasn't drafted by Davis, he had to be included in the list due to Davis finding him and exploring his options.
Reece originally signed with the Raiders in 2008 and was tried at a variety of positions after coming out of the University of Washington as a wide receiver. After spending his first two seasons on the Raiders practice squad, Davis and the Raiders elevated him and signed him to the active roster as the starting fullback in 2010.
Reece has since turned into one of the team's most dangerous weapons due to his receiving ability and even his ability to rush the ball. The versatile fullback stepped in as the starting running back last season with so many injuries to their running backs. As a result of his season as a fullback and running back, Reece earned his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2012 after hauling in 52 receptions for 496 yards and 271 rushing yards (4.8 yards per carry).
Reece has appeared in 47 games for the Raiders, including 31 starts since 2008, racking up 505 yards on 106 rushes and 1,159 yards on 107 receptions.
Reece signed an extension with the Raiders on Sept. 13, 2013 and hopes to remain with the Raiders for his career because of the beliefs of Mr. Davis.
“It’s another step to my goal – being a Raider for life,” Reece said via the Raiders’ press release. “I plan on playing for as long as God will allow me to. If it’s for a lot longer, I want it all to be with the Raiders. Al Davis believed in me more than I did myself at times, and it meant a lot to me. I take it to heart and I take it seriously. Mark Davis has loved me the same. I love the organization and I love the Raiders family. I plan on being a Raider for life.”
Jared Veldheer, Offensive tackle
Davis drafted Veldheer in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft (69th overall) after he played his college ball at Hillsdale.
Veldheer played so well he was able to supplant Mario Henderson as the starting left tackle by mid-season of his rookie year. Veldheer hasn't looked back since becoming the Raiders starting tackle, quickly becoming one of the best young left tackles in the league.
Up until this year, Veldheer had played in every game of his three-year career, starting all but five of them. Veldheer is currently out with a torn triceps injury though could come back by the end of November.
Veldheer has become a crucial piece of the offensive line due to his consistency in both run blocking and his ability to keep the quarterback off of the dirt.
Stefen Wisniewski, Center/Offensive guard
Davis went for a familiar family tree when he drafted Stefen Wisniewski in the second round (48th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft. Wisniewski is the nephew of former Raiders Steve Wisniewski, who was an eight-time Pro Bowl guard for the Raiders.
Wisniewski quickly turned into one of the team's best offensive lineman while playing at the left guard position next to Jared Veldheer.
After a strong season at left guard, the Raiders asked him to return to his college position at center, where he still remains. Wisniewski remains one of the better centers in the league.
Charles Woodson, Safety
Woodson is one of Davis' older draft picks as he was drafted fourth-overall in the 1998 draft by Davis. Since then, Woodson has become one of the best players in the NFL.
Woodson initially spent eight seasons in his first stint with the Raiders, but then moved on and signed a seven-year contract with the Green Bay Packers where he continued his illustrious career.
Woodson was originally drafted by Davis as a cornerback but has since moved to the free safety position due to being 37 years old. Woodson's hall of fame resume includes 749 tackles, 18.0 sacks, 120 passes defensed, 56 interceptions and 13 defensive touchdowns. Woodson's 13 defensive touchdowns is currently tied for the NFL record with Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper, and his 13th was recorded just last week against the San Diego Chargers.
Woodson decided to come back to the Raiders with a one-year deal after little interest from other teams and the fans in Raider Nation pushed hard for him to return home. The departure of Michael Huff also made a hole in the defensive backfield.
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