Last year, the Raiders surprised many draft analysts including myself when they selected Florida State defensive end Mario Edwards Jr in the second round. Leave it to Reggie McKenzie to once again drop a bombshell on mock drafts as many were shocked when the Raiders selected Jihad Ward with their second round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Weight: 297 lbs
Arm Length: 33 7/8"
Hand Size: 9 3/8"
2015: 53 Tackles, 3.5 Tackles For Loss, 1.5 Sacks, 2 Quarterback Hurries, 1 Forced Fumble
2014: 51 Tackles, 8.5 Tackles For Loss, 3 Sacks, 5 Quarterback Hurries, 2 Forced Fumbles
2015: Honorable Mention All-Big Ten
2014: Honorable Mention All-Big Ten
Jihad Ward is a ball of clay just waiting to be molded with proper coaching. He played receiver and defensive back in high school and didn't transition to the defensive line until junior college. As a result, he has only played the position four years and is still extremely raw. Ward has the size and athleticism to make coaches drool and the sky is the limit if he combines his ability with proper technique.
Just like Mario Edwards Jr, Ward has the versatility to play several positions on the defensive line. He plays with a high motor and does not stop until the whistle is blown. That physical mindset combined with a quick closing burst show that the traits are there, now they just need to be improved upon with technique.
Ward has all of the tools to become a force in the NFL, he just needs to refine his technique to bring out his physical ability. Whether it be from his lack of experience at the position, or the quality of coaching he received at Illinois, there are many aspects to Ward's game that can be improved upon such as refining his hand work, gaining leverage, and using his arms to separate from opposing offensive lineman. As a result, he lacked production and would disappear at times on film.
Between the selections of Edwards and Ward, Reggie McKenzie has shown he is not opposed to gambling on players in the second round with low production and a high ceiling. The Raiders have a great defensive line coach in Jethro Franklin who is already salivating to work with Ward. He is also entering a great situation as the Raiders already have a plethora of pass rushers which will take pressure off of him and allow him time to develop.