Running Back DeAndré Washington
The NFL draft provides teams with the opportunity to garner young talent eager to make their mark in the league, and in 2016 the Oakland Raiders drafted seven players on both sides of the football. With a plethora of talent to choose from, the Silver and Black took players from a variety of positions, in hopes they could add some depth to the team.
Following the conclusion of the 2016 campaign, let’s look back on the seven rookies’ first season in the league.
Safety Karl Joseph (Round 1, No. 14 overall):
With their first pick of the 2016 draft, the Raiders selected hard-hitting safety Karl Joseph out West Virginia University, who proved to be a solid player when healthy. In his first season with the team, No. 42 played 12 games, and started in nine of them (one playoff appearance), finishing the year with 60 tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery.
Defensive End Jihad Ward (Round 2, No. 44 overall):
The Illinois-product was thrown into the mix pretty swiftly, as fellow defensive end Mario Edwards, Jr., was sidelined for a majority of the season with a hip injury. In his 13 games as a starter, Ward showed off his athleticism and strength en route to his 30 tackles.
Linebacker Shilique Calhoun (Round 3, No. 75 overall):
Prior to injuring his leg in Week 11, and subsequently being placed on the Reserve/Injured list December 23, Calhoun was primarily a member of the special teams unit, but also saw some reps at defensive end. The former Michigan State Spartan tallied nine tackles and a half a sack in his first year in Silver and Black.
Quarterback Connor Cook (Round 4, No. 100 overall):
Fellow Spartan Cook was drafted by the team to serve as one of Derek Carr’s backups, but following of injuries to No. 4, and quarterback Matt McGloin, the rookie stepped in to lead the team. Cook became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to make his first career start in the postseason. In his two appearances, the signal-caller completed 48 percent of his passes, threw two touchdowns, and four interceptions.
Running Back DeAndré Washington (Round 5, No. 143 overall):
Washington was a member of the Raiders three-headed rushing monster, and served as a versatile weapon in the team’s offensive scheme. He carried the ball 87 times, totaling 467 yards (5.4 YPC), two touchdowns, and added 115 yards receiving as well. The scat back offered a special combination of strength and speed that allowed him to bust out some impressive runs. On Christmas Eve against the Indianapolis Colts, No. 33 rushed 12 times for 99 yards and two touchdowns, both touts to the end zone came on 22-yard runs.
Linebacker Cory James (Round 6, No. 194 overall):
Coming out of college, James played an assortment of different positions from defensive end to linebacker, but little did he know he’d have a brief stint as the Raiders starting middle linebacker as a rookie. He totaled 48 tackles, which was eighth-best on the team, and forced a fumble as well. The Colorado State-product has a knack for locating the ball carrier and bringing him down.
Guard/Tackle Vadal Alexander (Round 7, No. 234 overall):
The Raiders final pick of the drafted proved to be an important one, as Alexander stepped in on multiple occasions as the team’s right tackle/guard. With injuries to tackles Menelik Watson and Austin Howard, the rookie was forced to hold down the right side of the Raiders front line, and did a decent job filling in. He contributed to the offensive line in nine games and started in five of them. Alexander should be a fun player to watch develop as he continues to learn under the tutelage of offensive line coach Mike Tice.