Las Vegas Raiders: 15 best defensive backs of all-time

Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Trayvon Mullen (27) Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Trayvon Mullen (27) Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /
9 of 15
las vegas raiders
Quarterback John Hadl #21 of the San Diego Chargers tries to elude safety Jack Tatum #31 of the Oakland Raiders (Photo by James Flores/Getty Images) /

28. . FS. (1971-79). Jack Tatum. 7. player

  • Super Bowl Champion (XI)
  • 3x Pro Bowl (1973-75)
  • 2x Second-Team All-Pro (1974, 1977)
  • 30 career interceptions for 636 yards in 120 games w/Raiders
  • Nicknamed “The Assassin”

Jack Tatum was undoubtedly one of the most ferocious hitters to ever play in an NFL secondary. Though most of his patented punishing hits of wide receivers would be outlawed today, Tatum became a fan favorite and a Raiders legend because of them. Let’s just say that the Raiders made an outstanding selection by taking Tatum No. 19 out of Ohio State in the 1971 NFL Draft.

At Ohio State, Tatum was one of the greatest defensive backs in the history of college football. He won two national titles with the Buckeyes, made two All-American teams and three All-Big Ten squads during his time in Columbus. Already a legend in Buckeye Nation, Tatum’s game transitioned marvelously to that of the pro game in the 1970s.

Tatum would start right away as a rookie in 1971 with the Raiders. He had four interceptions for 136 yards and two fumble recoveries for 26 yards as a rookie. Tatum backed that up with another season of four interceptions and two fumble recoveries as a second-year player in 1972.

However, he did find pay dirt on one of those fumble recoveries, as he amassed a league-best 104 fumble recovery yards that NFL season. He earned Second-Team All-Pro that campaign for the first time.

By year three in the league, Tatum had entered his prime as a member of the Raiders defensive backfield. He was laying out devastating hits in the middle of the defense, all the while, making big-time plays on the ball when it was thrown in his vicinity.

Tatum made his first of three-straight trips to the Pro Bowl in 1973. His reputation as a high-end head-hunter in the Oakland secondary made him arguably the most feared defensive back in NFL history. This would be to the Raiders’ advantage, as Oakland was almost always in the Super Bowl conversation in the AFC during the John Madden era of the team.

After years of frustration in the AFC playoffs, the Silver and Black finally got it done in 1976. The Raiders were able to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history, as Oakland took care of business against the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI.

Tatum might have been done making Pro Bowls, but was still an impactful player for the Raiders through the 1970s. After the 1979 NFL season, he was traded to the then Houston Oilers, where he would play his last NFL season in 1980. Tatum interestingly enough set a career-high with seven picks for 100 yards as a member of the 1980 Oilers.

Tatum had the privilege to play alongside other great Raiders’ defensive backs the likes of George Atkinson and Willie Brown in his prime. They obviously brought out the best in each other. Tatum ended up with 30 interceptions for 636 yards in 120 games in Raiders uniform. Though not a Pro Football Hall of Fame player, Tatum was a one-of-a-kind hitting machine in the Raiders secondary in the 1970s.