The Oakland Raiders have now selected a player to help each level of their defense in the 2016 NFL Draft.
On day one the Raiders selected safety Karl Joseph with the 14th overall pick, looking to help shore up their secondary after Charles Woodson retired. General manager Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders continued to build up their defense on day two on Friday, taking a defensive lineman in the second round (44th overall) and a linebacker/defensive end in the third (75th overall).
Former Illini defensive lineman Jihad Ward was taken in the second round, adding another defensive lineman to the Raiders roster that gives them versatility and a player that can play up and down the line. Head coach Jack Del Rio is excited about the addition.
"I think we think he has great upside," Del Rio said after the third round. "He’s a big athletic defensive lineman that can play multiple positions."
Ward was originally a wide receiver and defensive back in junior college before his frame outgrew the position and he switched to play defensive line.
Though he's only played the position for four years, Del Rio doesn't view him as a developmental player at all.
"He’s not a raw player," Del Rio said. "He’s played against big 10 players, and he’s moved up and down the line…. Playing defensive line isn’t like playing quarterback. we think we can help him grow as a player and we like what we’re starting with."
The Raiders then selected Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun in the third round (75th overall) shortly after taking Ward. Calhoun offers pass-rushing capabilities while also being able to play multiple positions like fellow linebackers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.
"Shilique is in between a defensive end and linebacker (SAM)," Del Rio said of his third round pick. "He’ll have versatility in the sense that he can play either SAM or LEO for us, which is defensive end."
Del Rio also likes what he saw from Calhoun, who was a three-time All-American at Michigan State.
"He's a very productive young man, really understands how to rush the quarterback," Del Rio said. "He's been an All-American and he's been a very productive guy at a good college program."
Adding both Ward and Calhoun gives the Raiders added versatility and depth, something they aspired to do entering the draft.
"We still have a lot of work to do on our football team," Del Rio said."There's a lot of opportunity to better ourselves and we're going to continue to work at it anyway we can."
Del Rio acknowledged that they didn't necessarily set out to draft all defensive players, but that's just how it played out and he's content with it.
"it wasn't like we orchestrated to come out with that being the case," Del Rio said. "We have a lot of areas where we feel like we can strengthen, add competition to the roster, add depth and it just has worked out in that way."