Oakland Raiders: 15 best pass rushers of all-time

The Oakland Raiders have had some decorated pass rushers in their history, let's take a look at the top-15 of all-time.

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(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Over the course of the last 60 years, the Oakland Raiders have become one of the most decorated franchises in NFL history. The foundation of the franchise is laid in the motto "Commitment to Excellence" coined by the late, great Al Davis.

In those 60 years, the Raiders have produced some pretty incredible football players. Multiple former players are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with plenty of others engraved in team record books, biding their time until they are inducted.

It is incredibly fun, yet incredibly difficult, to go back and look through team records to attempt a 'ranking' for players that played in different eras. It is hard to compare a Raider from the 1970s to one that has been on the roster in the last decade. Even tougher, it is nearly impossible to rank pass rushers that hailed from different eras.

The 'sack', as it is known today, was not an official stat until 1982. That means pass rushers from before 1982 do not have official sack totals, merely unofficial tallies from the brave souls that dug back through box scores and old video to try to give them the credit they deserve.

With that in mind, using a combination of sack totals, tackles for loss, quarterback hits and impact on team success, I took a shot at ranking the top-15 pass rushers in Raiders history.

As a disclaimer, the statistics on some players may be unofficial estimates due to sacks not being properly tallied until 1982 and tackles for loss not really being tracked until 1999. However, they are still a good ballpark estimate of their production.

Let's begin with some honorable mentions that didn't make the final cut. Richard Seymour, Lamarr Houston, Roderick Coleman and Darrell Russell all barely missed out, but were incredible pass rushers for the Raiders in their own right.

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15

Lance Johnstone

DE | (1996-00)
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After four seasons at Temple University, the Raiders selected linebacker Lance Johnstone in the second round, 57th overall. Despite playing as a linebacker in college, the Raiders turned Johnstone into a defensive end and reaped the benefits.

Standing at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, he was a dominating physical presence that was capable of playing the run, as well as pinning his ears back and getting after the quarterback.

In 87 career games with the Raiders, Johnstone finished with 31 sacks. He also tallied 19 tackles for loss, 11 forced fumbles and four quarterback hits. Johnstone spent six of his 11 seasons with the Raiders. His other five came with the Minnesota Vikings. His career totals are 72 sacks and 57 tackles for loss in 166 games.

Another fun statistic, Johnstone recorded three defensive touchdowns in his career, all with the Raiders. Everyone loves a good defensive touchdown. Johnstone had a knack for finding the end zone when he got his hands on the ball.

Although Johnstone produced more with the Vikings, he was still a great Raider. He is 10th all-time on the Raiders sack leaders with 31. For reference, all nine of the players ahead of him on the all-time list are also featured in this ranking. If not for a handful of injuries, Johnstone may have had a shot at hitting the 100-sack mark in his pro career.

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14

Bill Pickel

NT | (1983-90)
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Without question, Bill Pickel is the best name on this ranking. I mean come on, how can you not love it? However, Pickel's surname is not the reason behind his ranking among the greatest pass rushers in Raiders history.

When it comes to Pickel, there really wasn't much he couldn't do on the defensive line. His versatility was a vital factor in the team's success. It was a huge reason why the Raiders won the Super Bowl in his rookie campaign in 1983.

Drafted in the second round of the 1983 NFL Draft, Pickel would go on to play in every game for the Silver in Black en route to the Super Bowl. Out of Rutgers, he became a mainstay on the Raiders defensive line for eight years.

In his eight seasons with the Raiders, Pickel tallied 53 sacks and 453 total tackles. Now, he was listed as a nose tackle, but could play anywhere on the line due to his 6-foot-5, 265-pound frame. While great at stuffing the run, Pickel also served as a sack threat and drew double teams often.

In seven playoff games with the Raiders, Pickel had two sacks, both in the Super Bowl winning 1983 postseason. Pickel ranks fourth all-time in sacks for the Raiders, so one could argue that he belongs higher on this list. The margins that separate these players are very slight, but that should not discredit the fact that he had an incredible career that was spent mostly with the Raiders.

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13

Lyle Alzado

DE | (1982-85, 1990)
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To fully grasp who Lyle Alzado was, I would suggest watching the "A Football Life" that chronicles his life and career. It is an incredible film. I will do my best to give a short snippet, but I won't come close to doing him justice.

Ferocious. Tenacious. Unrelenting. Gentle giant. All of these words have been used to describe the late Alzado. Obviously, the first three refer to him with a helmet on (or off, as it often was) with the last referring to his temperament off the field.

His intensity on the field stemmed from childhood trauma, as he experienced an abusive relationship with his father. But he never let that rage and anger impact his actions in the locker room or off the field, evidence by nearly every interview with Alzado's former teammates.

By the time Alzado made his way to then Los Angeles, he had spent 11 seasons in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and the Cleveland Browns. After a relatively unsuccessful stint with the Browns, Alzado seemed to be on his way out. However, playing with the Raiders revived the Alzado who had previously tormented the league with the Broncos.

The powerful defensive end joined the Raiders at the age of 33 in 1982, when sacks first became recorded. In the next four seasons, Alzado would record 23 sacks and two safeties. He also helped the Raiders win the Super Bowl at the end of the 1983 season.

For his career, it is estimated that Alzado tallied 112.5 sacks. It should come as no surprise that Alzado finds his way to this list. If he had spent more time with the Silver and Black, Alzado would be much higher on this ranking.

Alzado passed from terminal brain cancer in 1992 at the age of 43, convinced that his admitted steroid use was the cause.

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12

Rod Martin

OLB | (1977-88)
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A true Raider legend, Rod Martin spent his entire 12-year career with the Raiders, both in Oakland and Los Angeles. In those 12 seasons, Martin amassed 12 playoff appearances, with 11 starts in those games. To say he was pivotal in the Raiders' success in the early 1980s would be a massive understatement.

An outside linebacker by trade, Martin had a natural ability to get after the quarterback. His reading of the game and his physical traits combined to create a player that could do just about anything on the defensive side of the ball. Obviously, the focus here is on Martin's pass rushing. Like many others on this list, there isn't a full count of his sack total.

Post-1982 Martin accumulated 33.5 sacks, but the number is likely much higher than that. The first five years of his career sacks weren't recorded. In the sixth (1982), he only played in nine games due to the strike. Martin also tallied 10 fumble recoveries and 14 interceptions, turning six of those turnovers into touchdowns.

During his heyday, Martin earned two Pro Bowl nominations, one First-Team and three Second-Team All-Pro honors. He also won the Super Bowl twice with the Raiders. Martin was an incredible player and is definitely a legend of the Silver and Black.

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11

Warren Sapp

DT | (2004-07)
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Ah yes, the "Quarterback Killa" makes his appearance just outside the top-10 on this ranking. Warren Sapp played his college ball at the University of Miami, and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round of the 1995 NFL Draft. The rest is history, as Sapp would go on to become one of the most prolific defenders of the modern era.

Similar to Lyle Alzado, Sapp spent the last four seasons of his career with the Raiders, but that did not mean he was unproductive. Despite being 32 years old when he joined Oakland, Sapp went on to record 19.5 sacks with the Raiders. He also added in 27 tackles for loss and 22 quarterback hits in those four seasons.

For his career, Sapp came up just short of the 100-sack mark with 96.5. He finished with 571 tackles, 91 of them for loss. As these statistics indicate, Sapp spent a lot of time in the opposing backfield, whether he was wrapping up the running back or the quarterback. Still curious how he got the nickname "Quarterback Killa"?

Despite being a defensive tackle, Sapp proved his worth as a pass rusher. He almost always drew double teams yet found ways to get around them. His presence on the field was always felt, and the production always followed. Sapp is one of the best defensive players ever. In only four seasons, he etched his name into Raiders lore.

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10

Tommy Kelly

DE/DT | (2004-12)
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A personal favorite of mine, Tommy Kelly takes the first spot in the top-10 for a couple of reasons. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2004, Kelly would spend the next nine seasons with the Raiders.

A diamond in the rough so to speak, Kelly became a pivotal piece in the Oakland defense for the better part of a decade. Despite the team being atrocious during his stay, Kelly found a way to produce and put together a nice career with the Silver and Black.

Out of Mississippi State, Kelly was a hybrid lineman, meaning he could play either on the edge or on the interior as a defensive tackle. At 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, Kelly was a massive being with a high motor. Luckily for the Raiders, his potential went unnoticed, as he was not drafted and fell right into the Raiders' lap.

In 129 games with the Raiders, Kelly earned 117 starts. Kelly finished his stint with the Raiders with 34.5 sacks, 419 tackles with 45 of them for a loss and 58 quarterback hits.

Kelly was able to get after the quarterback, regardless of where he lined up on the defensive line. He also had a miraculous 17 passes defended, showing he was smart enough to throw his hands up when he couldn't reach the quarterback.

Kelly was a solid player on many bad teams. It is a shame he never got to play in the postseason for the Raiders. His lone playoff appearance was with the Arizona Cardinals in 2014, where they lost to the Carolina Panthers in their first postseason game.

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9

Sean Jones

DE | (1984-87)
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In 1984, the Raiders selected Sean Jones out of Northeastern University with their second-round pick. Four years later in 1988, they went on to flip Jones for the ninth overall pick thanks to the then-Houston Oilers, who coveted Jones' pass rushing ability.

It's a shame that the Raiders didn't keep Jones longer than they did. In his brief four-year stay with the team, Jones showed why he belongs in the Raiders' top-15 pass rushers of all-time.

In 59 games with the Raiders down in Los Angeles, Jones compiled 31 sacks with 161 tackles. Mind you, only 32 of those games were starts. Jones was a stud in every sense of the word.

That is why Houston traded a top-10 draft pick to acquire his services. Jones did most of his damage in the six years he spent in Houston before joining the Green Bay Packers for his final three seasons.

Jones finished his career well past the 100-sack mark with a total of 113. He tacked on 601 tackles and 13 fumble recoveries as well, as if the sack total wasn't enough to see how great of a player Jones was.

An All-Pro in 1994 and 1995 and a Super Bowl champion in 1996, Jones cemented his place in NFL history. Jones is 22nd all-time in NFL history with 113 sacks, up there with Greg Townsend who we will touch on a bit later in this ranking.

Jones was an extremely talented pass rusher. The Raiders likely regret letting him go. Although that first-round pick turned into Terry McDaniel, who had a stellar career with the Raiders, you be the judge of who won the trade.

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8

Derrick Burgess

DE | (2005-08)
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In the 2000s, the Raiders were bad. Between 2003 and 2010 the Raiders highest win total was five. If you extend that through the 2018 season, they only have one winning season.

Despite the horrible records the team produced, there were several players along the way that made the team even remotely watchable. Defensive end Derrick Burgess was one of those players.

From 2005 to 2008, Burgess was the anchor of the Raiders defensive line. After four rough seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles to start his NFL career, Burgess took advantage of his second chance in Oakland.

In his first two seasons with the Silver and Black, Burgess earned the only two Pro Bowl nominations of his career. A large part of his two nominations was his explosion as a pass rusher, tallying sack marks of 16 and 11 in those two seasons.

He finished his four-year stint in Oakland with 38.5 sacks, good enough for seventh all-time in Raiders franchise history. Burgess also had 39 tackles for loss and 38 quarterback hits. In only 56 games, that is a ridiculous stat line.

While not necessarily any fault of his, Burgess' lack of team success while with the Raiders drops him in this ranking. Winning only 15 of the 64 games during his stay, the Raiders could not do much of anything correctly. Burgess was a bright spot during a dark time for the Raiders and deserves that recognition.

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Ted Hendricks of the Los Angeles Raiders looks on during a game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.

7

Ted Hendricks

OLB | (1975-83)
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The "Mad Stork" comes in at No. 7 on this list. A little known fact, Ted Hendricks is one of only two NFL players ever born in Guatemala, remember that for trivia. He attended the University of Miami, where he was a two-time All-American for the Hurricanes.

Selected by the then-Baltimore Colts in the 1969 NFL Draft, Hendricks would eventually make his way to Oakland in 1975. This was just in time for their magnificent run that included three Super Bowl victories.

Hendricks played as an outside linebacker, both on the strong side and weak side. Former players have said that running into Hendricks was like running into a brick wall, he didn't budge.

At 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, Hendricks was a physical marvel capable of doing just about anything on the field. He could dig his hand into the ground and chase down the quarterback, he could play the run and he could drop back in coverage. There seriously wasn't anything that Hendricks couldn't do.

His talent and versatility helped lead the Raiders to all three of their Super Bowl wins. In nine seasons with the Raiders, Hendricks was a Pro Bowler four times and an All-Pro twice. His official sack total in those seasons is nine, because sacks weren't recorded until his second to last season in the NFL.

It is estimated that he had roughly 60 sacks, but even that total seems low. He also had 26 career interceptions and 16 career fumble recoveries. Hendricks is rightly enshrined in both the College Football and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is easily one of the most legendary players to ever don the Silver and Black.

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6

Ben Davidson

DE | (1964-71)
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Way back in the AFL days, there was a man named Ben Davidson that rendered offensive linemen utterly useless. Perhaps he derived special powers from his incredible handlebar mustache (seriously look it up). Or maybe he was just a menace that tormented the league on a whim? Who knows?

At 6-foot-8 and 275 pounds, it should come as no surprise that Davidson was an incredible sack threat and thrived on the defensive line. Sack totals are essentially nonexistent for him because he played for the Raiders from 1964 to 1971.

One has to assume that the number was astronomical. Davidson helped the Raiders to three title games in the AFL, but they only were able to win one. That AFL Championship came in 1967. Oakland would fall to the Green Bay Packers after that title bout in what is now known as Super Bowl II.

Regardless, Davidson was an AFL All-Star in three consecutive seasons from 1966 to 1968. His stellar play on defense was invaluable to the Raiders in the years leading up to the 1970 merger with the NFL.

Injuries derailed his career in 1972. He never really returned, despite giving it another shot in 1974 in the World Football League, but nothing came of his attempt.

Davidson is remembered for his pass rushing ability and of course, his epic handlebar mustache. Unfortunately, his name won't show up in many record books, but he will be remembered nonetheless.

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Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport

5

Chester McGlockton

DT | (1992-97)
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Chester McGlockton is the highest ranking defensive tackle on this list, and for good reason. Warren Sapp and Bill Pickel were incredible, but McGlockton was on another level.

McGlockton attended Clemson University where he earned the right to be selected in the first round of the 1992 NFL Draft. At No. 16 overall, the expectations for McGlockton were high. To say he met those expectations might be an understatement.

In 1992, McGlockton appeared in 10 games for the Raiders while they were still in Los Angeles. In the remaining five seasons of his stay with the Raiders, McGlockton would start in every single game.

His dominance on the interior of the defensive line made him irreplaceable. McGlockton's stellar play earned him four consecutive Pro Bowl nominations. He also was a three-time All-Pro during that stretch with the Silver and Black.

Not only could McGlockton stuff the run, as most great defensive tackles should, but he could get after the quarterback. Obviously, that should probably go without saying as he is on this ranking, but let's hammer the point home.

In 90 games with the Raiders, McGlockton recorded 39.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and 340 tackles. Tackles for loss and quarterback hits wouldn't be recorded until later, but it would be fair to say McGlockton had more than his fair share of both. McGlockton was nearly impossible to deal with and created many sack opportunities for three of the remaining four players on this list.

A Raider legend, McGlockton passed away much too soon at the age of 42 in 2011 due to a heart issue.

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Mandatory Credit: Al Bello /Allsport

4

Anthony Smith

DE | (1991-97)
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Time for the most controversial player on this list, and someone I debated leaving off of it. Before discussing Anthony Smith's impact on the field as a member of the Raiders, it is best to preface all of this with a clarification.

Smith is currently in prison serving three life sentences without the possibility of parole. In 2015, Smith was found guilty of murder, kidnapping and torturing not one, but three different people. Needless to say, Smith is not someone who should be celebrated.

However, simply looking at his football career, Smith was a very talented pass rusher. Obviously that doesn't excuse his transgressions, but those did come after his career as a Raider.

Out of the University of Arizona, Smith was drafted in the first round, 11th overall by the Raiders in 1991. He went on to spend the next, and only, seven years of his career with the Silver and Black.

In his rookie season, Smith notched an impressive 10.5 sacks. He supported that with back-to-back double-digit sack totals of 13 and 12.5, respectively. After his first three seasons, he received a big money contract extension which could be the source of Smith's downfall.

Over the course of his 98 games with the team, Smith finished with 57.5 sacks, 228 tackles and 11 forced fumbles. He was a wrecking ball that left destruction in his wake. It is a shame that his life went in the direction it did after football. He was, without a doubt, one of the most dominant pass rushers the Raiders have ever had.

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3

Khalil Mack

DE/OLB | (2014-17)
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The only active NFL player on this list is Khalil Mack. Unfortunately, the Raiders let Mack get away and he no longer plies his trade in Oakland. As everyone knows by now, Mack was traded to the Chicago Bears ahead of the 2018 season. However, in only four seasons, Mack climbed up the franchise all-time sack list to No. 5.

Selected with the fifth overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, Mack became a cornerstone piece of the rebuilding Raiders. Mack was a huge reason behind their playoff berth in 2016.

In his four seasons with the Raiders, Mack became one of the premier defensive players in the league. He amassed 40.5 sacks, 68 tackles for loss and 84 quarterback hits during that span.

Mack earned Pro Bowl honors every season after his rookie campaign. He also garnered All-Pro honors in 2015 and 2016. Mack was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 with 11 sacks and a career high 26 quarterback hits.

His career high in sacks came in 2015 when he had 15. He became the first player to ever be named an All-Pro in two positions, outside linebacker and defensive end. Mack's talent and ability to utterly destroy offensive linemen is readily apparent. He is without question a top-three defensive player in the NFL today.

Fans can debate whether it was right to trade him, but they cannot debate that Mack is a franchise altering talent. Without question, Mack is one of the greatest pass rushers the Raiders have ever employed.

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2

Greg Townsend

DE | (1983-93)
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It is tough to put the franchise's all-time leader in sacks at No. 2 on a ranking of the best pass rushers in franchise history. One could even argue that Khalil Mack deserves to be at No 2.

Nonetheless, Greg Townsend deserves a ton of recognition for his career as a Raider. Had it not been for the one season spent with the Philadelphia Eagles, Townsend would have been in the Silver and Black for his entire 13-year NFL career. Let's just pretend he was never an Eagle. After all, he only had two sacks with them.

Townsend is one of the select few to have eclipsed 100 sacks in his career with 109.5, 107.5 of which came with the Raiders. In 174 games with the Raiders, both in Los Angeles and Oakland, Townsend cemented his legacy as a Raider legend. Although he is not yet enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, many hope that day will come for him.

Clearly, Townsend benefited from playing alongside guys like Chester McGlockton and Howie Long, but 107.5 sacks is no fluke. At 6-foot-3 and 265 pounds, Townsend was quick to the edge, but was also more than capable of overpowering his opponent.

A two-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro, Townsend was a generational player for the Raiders. He helped them win their third Super Bowl in 1983.

Townsend was a cornerstone of the defense for over a decade, few other players can say similar things. It makes sense then that Townsend is second to only one other Raiders pass rushing legend.

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1

Howie Long

DE | (1981-93)
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Who would have guessed that a second-round draft pick out of Villanova would become the franchise's all-time best pass rusher? It should come as no surprise that Howie Long is the pinnacle when it comes to the Raiders' best pass rushers of all-time. He is, and was, one of the greatest Raiders ever, regardless of position.

Drafted in 1981, Long would go on to play for the Raiders until 1993, when he retired after the season.

After 179 career regular season games Long finished with 84 sacks. He also tallied four sacks in 12 playoff games with the Silver and Black.

Tackles for loss and quarterback hits were not recorded then, but if he had 84 career sacks, it would be safe to assume that Long had plenty of the other two.

Long was an eight time Pro Bowler, a five-time All-Pro (three First-Team and two Second-Team) and a Super Bowl champion with the Raiders in 1983.

He was also named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1985 and was honored in the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team. His rightful induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame came in 2000.

Next: 50 greatest players in franchise history

Since hanging up the spikes after the 1993 season, Long has dabbled in broadcasting and written a book (Football for Dummies). He has three sons, two of which are NFL players (Chris Long and Kyle Long) and the third, Howie Long Jr., works for the Raiders. Long is more than deserving of the highest rank on this list. He is the gold standard when it comes to pass rushers in Raiders history.