Raiders draft Illini DL Jihad Ward in 2nd round

Illini defensive lineman Jihad Ward drafted by Oakland Raiders with 44th overall pick

DL Jihad Ward: Drafted

Round 2, Pick 44 overall

Team: Oakland Raiders

Bio Info

297 pounds
5.11 40
33 7/8-inch arm length
9 3/8-inch hands
20 reps on bench press

Illinois Career:

Ward is a self-made man. He was born to a 17-year-old mother (why he wore No. 17), played wide receiver at his Philadelphia high school and then attended a little-known junior college in New York City (Globe Tech), where he overcame huge obstacles. He had a multi-hour commute from his Jersey apartment to downtown New York, and he and his teammates worked out at a Bally Total Fitness. Though he was still raw as a defensive lineman, Ward immediately became the best-looking prospect on the Illinois roster and was immediately inserted into the starting lineup. 

While the 6-foot-5, 296-pound defensive lineman didn't put up eye-popping stats at Illinois -- in two seasons at Illinois, he accrued 104 tackles, 12.0 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, five fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles -- the high school wideout and former junior college defensive lineman has the size, athleticism, upside, versatility (he played end and tackle) and work ethic that intrigues NFL teams that run both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses.

Ward barely scratched the surface of his ability at Illinois. If you want to see his potential, turn on the Iowa film. Ward dominated the line of scrimmage, setting and edge and chasing Iowa's skill players downfield for some big hits. His NFL team must refine his technique, but it will get a physical specimen who will show up every day with the perseverance to reach his high upside.

Expert Breakdown: “A powerfully built defensive lineman with both strength and quickness to play anywhere along an even or odd front. Ward is still developing physically and filling out his frame after days of being a high school receiver. Has unique tools that cannot be taught and has as much upside as any player in the draft.” – Nolan NawrockiNFL Draft 2016 Preview

Ward Says: “At the end of the day, the field is your resume. So you just got to give it your all, give it all you got and make a statement. Once you go to the next level, I haven't done nothing. Once you go to your first practice, first training camp, I got to prove myself early, start fresh and be one of the best d-lineman in the NFL and play my part so I can make whatever team I go to better."

Illini Inquirer Top Stories