It was an eventful draft for the Raiders. The filled their top need with their top pick, they traded UP for once, and their picks were all over the board with regard to talent, production, character, and need. Here are those seven picks with my take on them and draft grade.
Round 1, Pick 14: Karl Joseph, S, WVU
Initially there was a bit of surprise with this pick. Not because Joseph wasn't a player the Raiders would be interested in, the interest is obvious, but because most projections had Joseph as a second round pick. I initially used the word ‘reach' to describe this pick, but I'm walking that back a bit.
It's hard to argue filling the Raiders biggest need with the best player at that position, especially when it was highly unlikely even if he were to drop into the second round that he would still be available at pick 44. That means either you try to trade down in the first, try to trade up in the second, or just take him at 14 and roll with it. The only sure thing of those three options was the one they chose. The main knock here is Joseph tore his ACL last season and is expected to miss the entire offseason program. Without that injury, he is a sure top 15 draft prospect.
Round 2, Pick 44: Jihad Ward, DL, Illinois
The word that has been thrown around about Ward since the pick was made was "raw". When Del Rio was presented with it, he said Ward wasn't raw, stating that the defensive line isn't like playing quarterback. Then Reggie McKenzie said Ward is definitely raw, but doesn't expect this to be ‘a redshirt year' for Ward, hoping he can be ‘coached up' and ready to contribute by the time the season starts. Add that there are questions about Ward's knee and it's hard to see this as a great selection this high in the draft.
Ward had just 4.5 career sacks and was just Honorable Mention B1G. He was projected as high as a late third round pick, with some projecting him in the final two rounds of the draft. The reports that he could need a knee surgery that would have him out the first six weeks of the season suggest that he certainly could have fallen into the third day at least. You don't pass up a proven talent such as Florida's Jonathan Bullard to reach for Ward.
Round 3, Pick 75: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan St
Shilique Calhoun's resume is extensive, with 27.0 sacks and 44.0 tackles for loss in four seasons at Michigan State. This is a ‘Best Player Available' type of pick as he is slated as a pass rushing outside linebacker where the Raiders are well stocked. He was at least a second round pick in every projection out there so getting him at pick 75 in the third round is fantastic value.
Add that he is a tremendous character guy who could have come out of school as a junior but opted to return to get his degree in criminal justice and it's hard to find a glaring flaw in this third round selection.
Round 4, Pick 100: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan St
This was the shocker of the day. Not only did Reggie McKenzie go out of character to trade up, but he chose a player whose out of the character the Raiders typically covet. And they took a quarterback, which is a position that is set with Derek Carr as the starter and Matt McGloin as the backup.
Cook was not nominated a team captain which is a big red flag for a quarterback, and there have been several reports of his lack of leadership skills and locker room presence. He has had success, but his game isn't without serious flaws, including accuracy issues. The Raiders gave up one of their 5th round picks (154) to move up 14 spots to get a luxury type pick for a team that isn't quite to the point where they should be looking at luxury items.
If you're looking for positives, there are a couple. The first is the potential value down the road. Should Cook be able be a good teammate and show some skills in the preseason or in fill-in duty over the next couple years, he could become a valuable piece for in trade. Also Matt McGloin's contract is up after next season. The other positive is they jumped up and stole Cook from Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. Their grade gets a little boost for that stick.
Round 5, Pick 143: DeAndre Washington, RB, Texas Tech
When you hear DeAndre Washington description, he perfectly fits what the Raiders are looking for. His production is very good, and this is around where he was expected to be drafted. But I watched his tape and saw some issues. He's undersized at 5-8, 200 pounds and he dances a lot which won't work in the NFL. When the Raiders pick was coming up and UCLA's Paul Perkins was still on the board, it seemed like a slam dunk. He's bigger (5-10, 205) and has better production. That being said, the compact Washington can be a very good complement to 6-3 long striding Latavius Murray.
He said people have compared him to Maurice Jones-Drew and I can see that, though not nearly on the same level as MJD (not to say he should be considering we're talking about the 5th round). Any grades on who will have a better career between he and Perkins is for down the road.
Round 6, Pick 194: Cory James, LB, Colorado St
James falls right into what Reggie McKenzie likes in a linebacker. He played every linebacker position as well as some defensive end in his four seasons at Colorado State. He said the Raiders worked him out as at WILL and SAM linebacker and in speaking with him, he emphasized his special teams play.
James had very good pressure numbers, with 22.0 sacks in his first three seasons from the outside and 45 career tackles for loss. His size (6-1, 229) could relegate him to the weakside and as a special teamer. He projects as a late round pick as well. The final two rounds are also where you find special teams players and he is destined for a role there.
Round 7, Pick 234: Vadal Alexander, G, LSU
I still have not found a valid reason why Vadal Alexander was available into the seventh round. Almost as if there was as mistake in the draft tracker and every team thought he'd been chose already. He was one of the top rated guards in the draft, and line up at both guard and right tackle. He was rated by several sources as a round two pick. Pro Football Focus gave him the highest grade among offensive linemen in Senior Bowl pass rushing drills.
Some say the 6-5, 326 pounder fell because of a poor numbers in athletic drills at the combine, including a 5.62 40-yard-dash. Keep in mind, Gabe Jackson had a 5.63 40-yard-dash and he was a steal in the third round in 2014. If that's really why he fell to the tail end of the draft, it's absurd. He is an incredible value at pick 234. Even for the Raiders who are set with their starters at guard. All the projections could be wrong or the rest of the NFL could be wrong. Either way, you take that chance with your final pick to find out.
They filled their top need by grabbing safety Karl Joseph in the firsts round. They also got the complementary back they wanted in the fifth round in DeAndre Washington, a 3-tech defensive tackle in Jihad Ward, and a pass rusher in Shilique Calhoun. They could have used an offensive tackle, wide receiver, and cornerback, but none were crucial needs.
Their top picks on days one and two all came on defense which was to be expected with the way the defense looked much of last season. The only sure day one starter is Karl Joseph which says more about the talent already on the roster than the talent of the players they drafted.