The Raiders took a pair of front seven defenders on Day 2 of the draft, picking up Illinois defensive end Jihad Ward in the second round and linebacker/defensive end Shilique Calhoun in the third.
The reviews were decent, but it was third-rounder Shilique Calhoun that earned the higher marks over second-rounder Jihad Ward.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke graded the Calhoun pick as an A, writing that he “actually might be better than their second-rounder. Calhoun, without question, is at least as ready as Jihad Ward to produce as a rookie. He is a value here, and he can be a three-down defender. Another chip for the Raiders’ emerging front seven.”
Burke’s colleague Doug Farrar handled grading the second round and still gave solid remarks to the Ward pick, giving it a B+. Farrar wrote, “Ward was overlooked in the 2016 class during his regular season, but he really showed up at the Senior Bowl as a guy who could combine estimable speed and shocking power. He’s a bit of a project, technique-wise, but the Raiders got a good one here.”
Pro Football Focus wasn’t so kind with the Ward pick, giving it a D+. PFF calls him a two-down player who provides very little as a pass rusher, which isn’t what the Raiders are banking on him as. PFF felt there were “a number of better interior defensive line options on the board.”
But PFF was on board heavily with the Calhoun pick, giving Oakland another A for the Michigan State pass rusher. The site calls him, “one of our favorite pass rushers in the draft,” and says it gave him “the second-best pass rush grade in the nation last year,” although it notes he has work to do against the run.
Bleacher Report fell in the middle a little bit on the Ward pick, grading it a C. They wrote that Ward is “more of a specimen than a football player at this point, but he’s a motivated late-bloomer type with great athletic gifts.” Their beef was it was too early for that type of gamble on a raw player.
B/R’s grade for Calhoun wasn’t quite as high as the others, but they still gave it a B. They wrote: “He’s big and quick enough to fit the mold, his workout numbers are solid (and) he flashes some pass-rush technique.”
Walterfootball.com gave the Ward pick a B, saying: “Ward fills a big need on the defensive front, which lost Justin Tuck and perhaps Mario Edwards (to injury). Ward was expected to be chosen in the middle of the second round, so the range obviously makes sense.” It was the one publication that actually like the Ward pick better than Calhoun, giving the third round selection a B- while saying Calhoun doesn’t always give a full effort.
CBS Sports was another to grade the Ward pick as a B, with Pete Prisco saying, “This is a raw JUCO transfer who has pass-rushing ability. This is a guy scouts loved.” Prisco scored the Calhoun pick as a B+, writing: “The only knock on him by some scouts is that he was soft. I like the pick. I like the player.”
Averaging out all those grades, Ward gets a C+ and Calhoun averages out to a B+, so both come in at above average even if Ward is just slightly above.
“The Raiders have put the pieces together on the offensive side of the ball, with a very good line in front of the emerging Derek Carr, and the focus has been on defense thus far in the 2016 draft. On Friday, they added a pair of defensive lineman who were both rated higher on my board than where they landed. Jihad Ward was a first-round sleeper who they bagged at No. 44, and Shilique Calhoun is a player I, at one time, thought of as a likely first-round player, and they got him at No. 75. The defensive line now looks quite formidable. Reggie McKenzie is on a good run.”