The Raiders franchise has had incredible receivers in team history, but in NFL history, is Cliff Branch the most underrated?
Earlier this week, Bleacher Report Gridiron sent a tweet with a quote from Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons on recently retired wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. The quote created quite a buzz, as people began to voice their opinions on wide receivers who were underrated in the league, a list that should have included Raiders star Cliff Branch.
Names including Professional Football Hall of Fame inductees such as Sterling Sharpe, Steve Largent, Andre Reed and Marvin Harrison have been thrown, but the value of being underrated isn’t recognized at the highest level ?
After seeing names swirling around famous superstars who received their bronze busts, I began to think of a player who had more Super Bowl wins, more postseason touchdowns, and a richer career than all of the aforementioned players, Cliff Branch.
Raiders star Cliff Branch is most underrated in NFL history
Cliff Branch was drafted in the fourth round of the 1972 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. Branch, who played his 14-year career in the Silver and Black, was three-time Super Bowl champion, three-time All-Pro, and four-time Pro Bowl draft.
He recorded 67 touchdowns over his long career during a period when the Raiders’ success was balanced by air and ground attacks. In the playoffs, Branch would be a clutch target for Ken Stabler and Jim Plunkett, as he amassed 1,289 receiving yards, averaging 17.7 yards per catch and five touchdowns.
Branch was a confrontational nightmare, as his blend of speed and capture ability made him an elusive target. As Cliff’s counterpart, Hall of Fame receiver Fred Biletnikoff would fundamentally beat the opposing secondaries, Branch would pass them, getting a sign in the Raiders end zone stating “Speed Kills # 21. “.
Branch wasn’t a flashy player, but he ran like The Flash, a small-sized player who could outrun anyone and he became a fan favorite of Raider Nation.
Now we are in 2021, 36 years after Branch retired, and he has yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, a Hall of Fame that is home to players Branch has dominated, scored and survived on the pitch. Branch’s stats compared to many who have had their busts enshrined in the most prestigious homes for professional football players are pale in comparison, but today Branch has always been an afterthought.
In the history of the NFL, he is the most underrated.