With their first selection on Day 2 of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Raiders picked defender Jihad Ward out of the University of Illinois.
Position: Defensive line
Weight: 297 pounds
Selection: Second round, No. 44 overall
College career: Ward is a physicial force, but doesn’t have many stats to show for it. He only had 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for a loss as a senior. He was an honorable mention All-Big 10 performer is his years at Illinois, where he played after spending time at a junior college. In two seasons with the Illini, Ward had 104 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.
Scouting report: Ward is a defensive end, but has played a number of positions due to great athletic traits. He’s an effort player with great size, someone who should be a quality player against the run and someone who can free edge rushers to get after the quarterback. He doesn’t have many stats to show for his effort, and analysts say he can get caught up in blocks and has power taken away too easily.
ESPN is reporting that Ward will need arthroscopic knee surgery that could keep him out six weeks.
How he fits: Ward has the versatility the Raiders prize on the defensive line, someone who can move all over the line like Mario Edwards Jr. and Denico Autry. He is considered a developmental prospect with some work to do to realize his potential. Raiders coaches are confident they can turn big, powerful athletes into solid pros. There is evidence to support that claim, and Edwards Jr. stands as a prime example of such a player. The Raiders have horses to let Ward develop down the depth chart, a luxury granted by a young foundation.
Next scheduled pick: Third round, No. 75 overall (Friday).