Oakland Raiders 2016 NFL Draft: Mixed Bag, Mixed Opinions



It’s hard to concisely summarize the fifth draft of Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie, because it was such a mixed bag. Their first round pick, Safety Karl Joseph of West Virginia was definitely a big reach, right?

Or was it?

Not really when you find a guy who fills a need to solidify the pass defense. We knew coming in that Oakland was going to prioritize DB, and that’s exactly what they did. Likewise with the two Big Ten Defensive Ends, Jihad Ward of Illinois and Shilique Calhoun of Michigan State.

Most draftniks expected the Oakland Raiders to grab a guy who could fill up the donut hole in the middle of their defense.

That didn’t happen.

After whiffing on his first two drafts, totally nailing it on his last two, McKenzie’s fifth seemed kind of uneven and choppy, ambivalent and confusing, perhaps conflicted.


“His first two drafts I thought were somewhat suspect,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said of McKenzie entering this weekend.

“If you go back to his 2012 draft, I’m not even sure there is a guy on the team left from 2012. 2013 was the Latavius Murray draft, D.J. Hayden hasn’t played well. Menelik Watson’s been hurt.”

“So the first two drafts I thought were suspect. I thought the last two have been outstanding. The core of their team with 2014 with Mack, and Carr, Jackson, Ellis, they hit their first four. I mean, that was fantastic. I mean, you come into last year and they’ve got more play makers.”

You can’t ask for a better draft performance than ’14 and ’15, as the Oakland Raiders found their franchise quarterback to build around in Derek Carr, the best young defender in the game with LB Khalil Mack, and a 1,000 yard receiver in Amari Cooper.

Said Los Angeles native and NFL Network Analyst Curtis Conway of the Oakland Raiders direction: “I think they’ve done a phenomenal job in the last couple years of building that football team.”

The ’14 class laid the foundation, ’15 brought them up to respectability, now, if the ’16 class is legitimate, it could bring the Silver and Black back to the post season.


Jihad Ward is an interesting pick, and we’ve covered the former Illini DL, and how he fits in with the Raiders at this link. Going beyond that, he’s got a very solid backstory.

A junior-college transfer from Globe Tech (NY), Ward started all 25 games he played in as an Illini. In two seasons at Illinois, he totaled 104 tackles, 12.0 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, three PBUs, three forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries while seeing snaps at both defensive end and defensive tackle.

Ward is one of five children of a single mother who had him at the age of 17 – the reason he wears No. 17 on the field. A receiver and safety in high school, Ward hit a growth spurt during his senior year and moved to defensive line.

He went to Globe Institute of Technology in Manhattan, taking on the role of big brother to the teammates he lived with in Staten Island. He helped the group navigate the two-hour journey to Globe’s campus near Times Square via bus, ferry, train and foot every day, often leaving their housing at 4 a.m. and not returning home until as late as 11:30 p.m.


Next we skip ahead to the fourth round, where the ending came to a tumultuous NFL Draft for Michigan State Quarterback Connor Cook.

Entering Thursday, many people thought he had a decent chance at becoming a first round pick. We covered the multiple destinations within round one where he could have conceivably landed. If he didn’t go round one, then we almost certainly thought he’d be selected in round two or three on Friday night. However, it didn’t happen as Connor Cook was to night two what Laremy Tunsil was to night one.

Both players endured a Johnny Manziel/Brady Quinn/Rashard Mendenhall like slide down the draft board. Then, right near the top of the fourth round, the Oakland Raiders traded up to grab Cook with the #100 pick.

Twitter blew up with opinions saying Connor Cook was “just so Raiders,” and that he was a perfect fit for the Raiders organizational stereotype.


I’ll let you the reader weigh in on that idea. (the comment section is below)

There were over 21,000 Tweets about Cook this weekend, so everyone had a lot to say about him.

We said a lot already over at this link. It’s hard to figure out where he fits in with Oakland right now.

Matt McGloin is a decent back-up to Carr, so is Cook just trade bait then? This might end up being a really genius move down the line, as he could be an excellent piece to shop to other teams. Think what the Oakland Raiders could get in return from a quarterback desperate team. Given how little McKenzie traded away to move up and get him, they could conceivably fleece someone down the line.

NFL Network Analyst Steve Mariucci knows his Michigan State football, and he opined here about what Connor Cook gives a pro team at the next level.


Cook’s former teammate Shilique Calhoun is another interesting pick.

Maybe he should have left Michigan State last year, as his stock ended up dropping this year, but hey East Lansing, MI is a really fun place, especially so when you’re BMOC like him, so how can you blame him for staying. Calhoun is another guy we’ve written about extensively already, and it’s time to once again point out that he needs to add weight. At this level he just needs to get bigger to play his position.

This pick provided tremendous value though, and maybe that’s the essential theme of the 2016 Oakland Raiders Draft.

In Calhoun, LSU OL Vadal Alexander and Cook, you have three guys that were all, at one time or another, considered sure-fire first rounders, but later all fell way down the draft boards. Yes, it was very very early in the process that they were considered first rounders, but the fact that they were even in the discussion at all at one point really says something.


These picks were high on the best player available scale, and maybe that made McKenzie more of a value GM here this past weekend. He doesn’t quote have a “GM identity” when it comes to the draft like Thompson in Green Bay or Reese in New York, but perhaps he’s now moving towards establishing one.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network. and News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, currently contributes regularly to the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye publication and Bold Global.

He also consistently appears on numerous talk shows all across the country. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram

Powered by


  1. Rick Faller says:

    Drafting in the middle of every round instead of in the top 5 picks makes it difficult to fill your grocery list. To rehash McKenzie’s first two drafts is just more re-hashing old news. I give this draft a solid “B” considering they filled almost every need (except the middle LB) and definitely improved this team for 2016

  2. paulmbanks says:


    thanks for reading and reaching out. I agree with you that this draft deserves about a “B” grade. but rehashing the first two drafts of McKenzie is more than just re-hashing old news here because 1 of my points here is to try and work towards establishing a “GM identity” here when it comes to the draft. a tough task yes, but you need to look at the whole 5 year body of work for that

  3. roy allen says:

    I am no going to jump the gun and grade them till after this season to see how they impact the team this year. Reggie has done a good job last two years so i am going to hold off till the end of the season. Go Raiders!!!!

  4. I like what they did. The pass defense got better witch was the weakness. Jihad Ward, will play DT, Calhoun olb, we needed a rb, and got one for the low. We got an extra guard similar to Gabel Jackson I the seventh for depth. Then stole a QB in the 4th to develop and cash in on later for nada. I like it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    We all have lots of questions and we’re all looking for answers with the selections made. In the past 5 years we have seen a Raider team grow from the bottom of the division and bottom of the league to a team making strides and I’m all for the direction this team is headed. But the draft is just a place where you may find potential not a sure set in stone talent. I’m more worried about free agents that we’ve taking gambles on the the selections in the draft. The making of a good GM goes with a all around knowledge of talent, risks for rewards and over a period of 5 years our GM has risked more than he’s received rewards.

Speak Your Mind