Happy Fourth of July everyone. And, of course, Happy Birthday, Al Davis. We are now at 71 days until the 2015 season which means we recognize the best to every wear the number 71 for the Raiders as well as who currently sports that number in Silver & Black.
Who wore it best: DT Bill Pickel
He was the Raiders second round pick in 1983, a round after Don Mosebar who was my choice as the best to wear number 72 for the Raiders. So, all in all, a very good draft. Pickel appeared in all 16 games that season as a reserve nose tackle and poste 6.0 sacks on the way to the Raiders win in Super Bowl XVIII.
Longtime starting nose tackle, Reggie Kinlaw, would leave after the 1984 season and PIckel took over as the full time starter. Just a season laster, Pickel was named first team All Pro. In total, he spent eight seasons with the Raiders, appearing in 121 games, starting 68. He finished his career with four seasons with the Jets.
Who's wearing it now: OT Menelik Watson
Like Pickel, Watson was a second round pick. Watson is hoping he is also like Pickel in that he can take over as the fulltime starter entering his third NFL season. When the Raiders chose him in the second round of the 2013 draft, Watson hadn't played a whole lot of football. The British import was a basketball player and started playing football late in high school. He then played one season of junior college and one season at Florida State before entering the NFL draft.
Almost his entire rookie season was lost due to a series of injuries, including a calf injury that kept him out all of training camp. He was healthy last season, but had a rough go of it. With a full offseason and training camp under his belt, he will have his best chance yet of taking his game to the next level. He was running with the first team in minicamp and indications are that will continue into training camp as he tries to hold off Austin Howard for the starting right tackle job.