It’s not entirely fair to place judgment on a draft class after their rookie season. But after two seasons? Totally fair. Granted it may not be the be-all, end-all judgment on that class, but after two seasons the rookie excuses are gone. So, let’s take a look at that class.
Round 1, pick 14: Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
Everyone expected Joseph to make a big leap in his second season. He said himself in training camp that he was tentative as a rookie as it he had just returned from an ACL tear he suffered as a senior at West Virginia. He had put it behind him in his second season, so we were expected to see the ‘Hit man’ that made him the best safety in college football and a bonafide top ten pick prior to his injury.
We didn’t see what we expected to see. In fact, by late in the season, even while the rest of the secondary was showing improvement under John Pagano as Defensive Coordinator, Joseph was a non-factor.
There is still hope, however. With Reggie Nelson not expected back, we could see Joseph move to free safety, where we could see the best of him — a ball hawking enforcer. For that reason, we still may not have seen the best from him.
Round 2, pick 44: Jihad Ward, DE, Illinois
And so, in the 15th game of the 2017 season Ward got the first sack of his career. It was created on a stunt on which Khalil Mack was double teamed inside and Ward had a free run at Nick Foles around the right side. That was Ward’s 20th game because after starting most of his rookie season, he was inactive for all but five games last season. That’s not how you follow up a disappointing rookie campaign. His post on Instagram essentially calling his Defensive Line coach a snake clown suggests he has the wrong attitude to break out.
This pick hurts all the more with the likes of running back Derrick Henry, wide receiver Michael Thomas, and linebacker Deion Jones all still on the board. All three were selected in the next 8 picks.
Round 3, pick 75: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Calhoun has appeared in even fewer games (19) than Ward. And has just a half sack and 11 career tackles to his name. As a rookie, the Raiders were trying to transition him to linebacker. That was a disaster. He was active for nine games last season, playing most of his snaps on special teams.
Round 4, pick 100 Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
The Raiders traded up to get cook at the top of the fourth round. He has been active for one career regular season game and one playoff game and has never been the primary backup to Derek Carr. As a rookie, he was behind Matt McGloin and last season he had fallen behind EJ Manuel by June minicamps and never recovered. Jon Gruden claims to like him so he will be given a chance to be groomed by one of the best in the biz.
Round 5, pick 143: DeAndré Washington, RB, Texas Tech
Late in his rookie season, he started to show some potential, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Last season he fell back down, averaging just 2.7 yards per carry on 57 carries for 153 yards, but was more of a presence as a receiver with 34 catches for 197 yards. He still has not distinguished himself from fellow running back Jalen Richard, leaving the Raiders with a question mark at the position. It hurts all the more considering Jordan Howard was both on the board at the time.
Round 6, pick 194: Cory James, LB, Colorado State
We didn’t see much from James as a rookie. He started two games at middle linebacker before the team signed street free agent Perry Riley to become to starter. We saw more of James last season, even with the team giving Marquel Lee the shot to be the starter and then signing NaVorro Bowman at midseason. James has shown he can be a valuable contributor and spot starter inside or outside as well as a special teams guy. While he may not ever be a regular starter, he’s been fairly good value as a 6th round pick.
Round 7, pick 234: Vadal Alexander, G/T, LSU
The once very highly thought of draft prospect, fell in the draft due to poor athleticism NFL teams worried wouldn’t translate well. As a rookie Alexander played well as a fill-in, but last season showed that lack of movement as he routinely was beaten on the rush and was a serious liability whenever he was in the game in any other capacity aside from a jumbo package. Basically about what you might expect from a seventh rounder, but not what you would hope.