October 23, 2015

Highlighted Year: Cliff Branch, 1974

Wide Receiver, Oakland Raiders

Age: 26
3rd season in pro football & with Raiders
College: Colorado
Height: 5’11” Weight: 170

A track as well as football star in college, Branch caught 36 passes for 665 yards (18.5 avg.), rushed for 354 yards, and scored eight touchdowns on kickoff returns, which was a NCAA Division 1-A record. He was chosen by the Raiders in the fourth round of the 1972 NFL draft and, while Branch impressed with his speed, he was also still a raw talent and caught just 22 passes in his first two seasons as backup to WR Mike Siani. He beat out Siani for the starting job in 1974 and became the deep threat across from dependable possession WR Fred Biletnikoff.

1974 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 60 [4] 
Most receptions, game – 7 (for 124 yds.) at San Diego 10/13, (for 96 yds.) vs. Cincinnati 10/20, (for 125 yds.) vs. San Diego 11/17
Yards – 1092 [1]
Most yards, game – 138 (on 6 catches) vs. New England 12/1
Average gain – 18.2 [10]
TDs – 13 [1]
100-yard receiving games – 5

TDs – 13 [2, 1st in AFC]
Points – 78 [8]

Postseason: 2 G
Pass receptions – 12
Most pass receptions, game – 9 vs. Pittsburgh, AFC Championship
Pass receiving yards – 270
Most pass receiving yards, game – 186 vs. Pittsburgh, AFC Championship
Average yards per reception – 22.5
Pass Receiving TDs – 2

Awards & Honors:
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, NEA, Pro Football Weekly
1st team All-AFC: AP, UPI, Pro Football Weekly, Sporting News
Pro Bowl

Raiders went 12-2 to finish first in the AFC West while leading the NFL in touchdowns (46) and scoring (355 points) and the AFC in total yards (4983). Won AFC Divisional playoff over Miami Dolphins (28-26). Lost AFC Championship to Pittsburgh Steelers (24-13).

Branch’s breakout 1974 season was the first of three straight in which he was a consensus first-team All-NFL choice and four that resulted in selection to the Pro Bowl. He had career highs with 1111 yards and averaging 24.2 yards per catch on 46 receptions in 1976, when he again topped the league with 12 touchdowns. While the honors ceased coming after 1977, he had a long and productive career with the Raiders, playing until 1985 and catching 501 passes for 8685 yards (17.3 avg.) and 67 touchdowns. Branch added another 73 receptions for 1289 yards (17.7 avg.) and five TDs in 22 playoff games and was a member of three NFL Championship squads. Following his departure from the Raiders in 1985, he played for the Los Angeles Cobras of the Arena Football League in ‘88 and caught 25 passes for 250 yards and three TDs.


Highlighted Years features players who were consensus first-team All-League* selections or league* or conference** leaders in the following statistical categories:

Rushing: Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Passing: Yards, Completion Pct., Yards per Attempt, TDs, Rating
Receiving: Catches, Yards, TDs (min. 10)
Scoring: TDs, Points, Field Goals (min. 5)
All-Purpose: Total Yards
Defense: Interceptions, Sacks
Kickoff Returns: Average
Punt Returns: Average
Punting: Average

*Leagues include NFL (1920 to date), AFL (1926), AFL (1936-37), AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974-75), USFL (1983-85)

**NFC/AFC since 1970