Oakland Raiders Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State – Round 3
The Raiders already had some edge rushers in Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, but NFL teams want three players capable of rushing off the edge for depth and rotation purposes. Calhoun will be the third edge rusher for Oakland, but in time, I think he could easily turn into a solid starter.

Over the past three seasons Calhoun was a consistent producer for Michigan State. He improved each year and had his best season as a senior when he totaled 10.5 sacks. Calhoun (6-4, 251) also got stronger at defending the run while logging a ton of snaps. He also showed an improved set of pass-rushing moves, including a spin move and a rip move. Teams also liked Calhoun’s leadership skills.

With offenses more focused on Mack and Irvin, Calhoun could have some favorable blocking matchups. With his experience over the past three seasons, Calhoun could transition quickly to the NFL. I think that Calhoun could become a quality contributor for the Raiders.

Most Likely To Bust

Jihad Ward, DE, Illinois – Round 2
I don’t feel good about selecting Ward for this, but of the Raiders’ early round picks, there seems to be the most bust potential with Ward. The reason for that is he is very raw coming out of college. Ward was a junior college player who got a late start in football. He is going to need some development for the NFL.

Ward has a great skill set at 6-foot-5, 296 pounds. He has surprising speed to go along with his size and strength. With his versatile talent, Ward could play defensive end or tackle. He has a ton of upside to develop, but he only played two seasons at Illinois and totaled five sacks over those campaigns. Thus, Ward is mostly potential, and there is the risk that his potential won’t turn into NFL production.

In my opinion, Ward could develop into a very good NFL defensive lineman if he has good coaching and works hard. However with how raw Ward is entering the pros, there is the possibility that he won’t develop and be a busted second-round pick.

Potential Boom Pick

Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia – Round 1
According to sources, there were a lot of teams that loved Joseph. Many were thinking of taking him if he got to their second-round picks, but Oakland jumped the gun and took him in the middle of the first round. Joseph was a superb safety in college as a run defender and in pass coverage. He showed ball skills, physicality, and strong skills as a tackler. Joseph could be an impact-generating safety in the NFL.

Joseph was off to a tremendous last season start before a knee tear ended his year early. At the time of the injury, he led the nation with five interceptions after a month of play. Joseph was excellent at covering receivers and being around the ball. The 5-foot-9, 205-pounder is short for pass coverage in the NFL, but he makes up for it with instincts and physical play.

The Raiders needed a safety to replace Charles Woodson, and Joseph should be able to play immediately. Joseph broke into the starting lineup as a freshman for West Virginia and is very experienced. He has Pro Bowl potential and could be a boom pick for Oakland.

Future Depth Player

Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State – Round 4
Many thought that Cook would go late in the first round, but he slid to the final day of the 2016 NFL Draft because of accuracy and leadership issues. It is hard to expect Cook to become more accurate in the NFL, but he could be a quality backup to Derek Carr. Cook has the skills to be a backup, and his leadership issues won’t be problem as a backup. The starter is called on to lead the team, so Cook won’t have leadership demands as Carr’s backup. Carr is one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL, so Cook isn’t a future starter, but he should be a quality backup for the Raiders.

Walt’s 2016 NFL Draft Grades:

14. Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia C Grade
When there were rumors about Karl Joseph shooting up to the first round, we reached out to team sources and asked if they agreed with that. They didn’t. Some said he might be a fringe first-rounder, but most told us that they relegated him to the second round, with his injury being somewhat of a factor. With that in mind, I think the Raiders are reaching here. I wouldn’t have minded it if the Raiders moved down and took Joseph, but I think No. 14 is too early.

That said, I don’t think this is a horrible pick. Joseph is a risk because of his injury, but if he completely gets over it, he could be a very good player for Oakland. The Raiders have definitely improved this offseason and could make a run into the playoffs.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

44. Jihad Ward, DT, Illinois B Grade
I’m glad to get one right in my mock re-draft. I figured that the Raiders would be interested in Jihad Ward when Sheldon Rankins was unavailable to them at No. 14. 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.

75. Shilique Calhoun, DE/OLB, Michigan State B- Grade
The Raiders won’t have Aldon Smith for a while in 2016. They’ll never have him if he gets into trouble again. Thus, it’s clear why they added an edge rusher. Shilique Calhoun is OK at this juncture. He doesn’t give full effort all the time; otherwise, he would’ve gone in the second round. Perhaps Jack Del Rio will be able to get the most out of him.

100. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State C- Grade
Why trade up for Connor Cook? I don’t like this at all. And let’s be clear here: Cook did not fall. Teams expected him to be taken off the bottom of the third round. The fact that he wasn’t voted team captain really bothered organizations, and things only got worse when he interviewed absolutely horribly throughout the process. On the field, Cook is very inconsistent, so he’s not like some great quarterback. This is not a good move.

143. DeAndre Washington, RB, Texas Tech D Grade
With some talented running backs still available, such as Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, this selection is extremely questionable. DeAndre Washington is a reach at this juncture. He’s an undersized runner who fumbles a lot and can’t pass protect. I’m not sure he’ll be on Oakland’s roster for very long.

194. Cory James, LB, Colorado State C Grade
Cory James is a tweener who doesn’t really have an apparent home in the NFL. He rushed the passer for Colorado State, but at 229 pounds, it’ll be difficult for him to do that in the NFL. Still, he displayed quality athleticism at his Pro Day, so maybe he’ll be a core special-teamer.

234. Vadal Alexander, G, LSU B Grade
Twenty more picks to go! Once upon a time, Vadal Alexander was in the second round of my mock draft. And then his Combine happened. They needed an hourglass to time the LSU product, as he ran a 5.57 40. Forty times for offensive linemen may not seem like a big deal, but there’s an extensive track record of slow blockers failing in the NFL. Alexander could be next, but he’s worth taking a shot on here in the seventh round.

2016 NFL Draft Team Grade: C . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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