1. Jim Otto, 1960-74
We start with this position because Jim Otto was the foundation of the Raiders franchise from its first day in 1960 until the day he grudgingly retired before the 1975 season. When the American Football League was founded, the eighth franchise was supposed to go to Minneapolis, but the established National Football League stepped in and offered those prospective owners a team that wound up being the Minnesota Vikings. In the weeks that followed, AFL teams raided the draft list of the team that was supposed to be in Minneapolis, but they missed the best player, a 6-2, 210-pound center out of Miami (Fla.). That was Otto, who pumped himself up to 260 pounds and started 210 consecutive games over the next 15 seasons. Otto was the only All-AFL center the league had in its 10-year history, and also played in the Pro Bowl and made the All-Pro team in the first three seasons after the AFL-NFL merger was complete in 1970. In addition, he was selected to the All-Time AFL Team, the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time team, and was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 1980--his first year of eligibility. He was the first Raider elected to the HOF. Late last year, The Twin Spires posted online a list of the 10 best centers of all time, and Otto was listed at No. 1. Otto paid the price, as he has had 74 surgeries, including 28 knee operations, and in 2007 his lower right leg had to be amputated but has said that he would do it all over again. He is known as “The Original Raider” and “Mr. Raider.”
2. Dave Dalby, 1972-1985
Dalby stepped in when Otto retired, didn’t miss a start for the next 14 seasons, and was the starter at the center when the Raiders won Super Bowls XI, XV, and XVIII while making the playoffs in eight seasons. The 6-3, 247-pound Dalby was selected by the Raiders in the fourth round (No. 100) of the 1972 NFL Draft out of UCLA and was another version of Otto, starting in 123 of 135 games from 1975-85. Like Otto, he never missed a game. For their first 25 years, the only starting centers the Raiders had were Otto and Dalby. Perhaps because he followed Otto and played at the same time as Hall of Fame center Mike Webster of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who was a seven-time All-Pro, Dalby was extremely underrated. However, when Otto left, he stepped into a line that includes Hall of Famers Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, and Dave Casper, and the Raiders didn’t miss a beat. Dalby, who played in the 1977 Pro Bowl, tragically was killed in 2002 at the age of 51, when his van hit a tree.
3. Don Mosebar, 1983-1995
The Raiders had only two centers, Jim Otto and Dave Dalby, in their first 26 seasons, and when Dalby left in 1986, Coach Art Shell selected 6-5, 305-pound guard/tackle Don Mosebar to fill their big cleats. It turned out to be a great move, as Mosebar was selected to three Pro Bowls, made first-team All-Pro in 1991, and played in 173 games in his 13 seasons—starting 146 of 149 games from 1985-94 while often playing through back injuries. Mosebar was selected by the Raiders in the first round (No. 26 overall) of the 1983 NFL Draft out of USC, where he was a four-year starter and an All-American tackle as a senior after being selected Parade Magazine’s National Lineman of the Year in his final season at Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia, Calif. He played guard and tackle in his first two years with the Raiders and figured he would follow in the footsteps of Hall of Fame tackle Shell because he had never played center in high school, college, or the pros. Mosebar’s experience at tackle for USC and his early days with the Raiders made him formidable in pass protection, and he was a powerful run blocker. His work at guard helped him with his footwork and he became an outstanding center. An eye injury sustained at training camp in 1995 ended Mosebar’s career.
4. Barret Robbins, 1995-2003
Despite two unfortunate incidents at the end of his career, Robbins was another in the line of standout centers to play for the Raiders. The 6-3, 350-pounder was selected by the Silver and Black in the second round (No. 49 overall) of the 1995 NFL Draft out of Texas Christian. In his second season, Robbins took over for Dan Turk, who was only the fourth starting center in Raiders history, and in the team tradition started 78 of 80 regular-season games over the next five seasons. After a right knee injury kept Robbins out of all but two games in 2001, he had his best season the next year, making first-team All-Pro and being selected to the Pro Bowl as the Raiders made it all the way to the Super Bowl. That week, Peter King of Sports Illustrated said he thought Robbins was the best lineman in the NFL. However, Robbins suffered from depression and bipolar disorder and stopped taking his medicine. He disappeared in the days leading up to the Super Bowl in San Diego and apparently went on a drinking binge across the Mexican border in Tijuana. When Robbins returned the night before the game, he was incoherent and did not play in the game, which the Raiders lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 48-21. Two years earlier, with Robbins dominating the interior line, the Silver and Black routed the Bucs, 45-0. Robbins regained his starting position in 2003 but was released before the next season after testing positive for steroids. Since his career ended, Robbins has been arrested several times, the last in 2020.
5. Rodney Hudson, 2015-2020
The Raiders are seeking a replacement for Hudson, who inexplicably asked for and received a trade to the Arizona Cardinals last month. The 6-2, 315-pound Hudson was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the second round (No. 55 overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft after being an All-American at Florida State. After four years with the Chiefs, he became a free agent and signed with the Raiders. Despite missing three games because of a sprained right ankle in his first season in Silver and Black, Pro Football Focus rated Hudson as the best pass-blocking center in the NFL. Hudson started 79 of 80 games in his last five seasons with the Raiders, being selected to the Pro Bowl three times and making second-team All-Pro in 2019. Last July, ESPN announced the results of its annual poll of NFL executives, coaches, scouts, and players to determine the best 10 players at their positions, and Hudson was selected as the best center for the fifth consecutive season, and as the sixth-best interior lineman. In the last six seasons, Hudson has played more than 3,000 pass-blocking snaps and has surrendered only two sacks, including none in each of the last three seasons. In addition to his physical abilities and calling blocking assignments for the line, Hudson held together a line decimated by injuries in the last few years and mentored the young players who were forced to play sooner than expected. Jon Gruden claimed that Hudson is the best center he has coached.
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