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NFL Draft 2016: Illinois DE Jihad Ward selected in 2nd Round by the Oakland Raiders

After two years in Champaign, Ward could be a force at the next level.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois defensive end Jihad Ward has been selected in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft (No. 44 overall pick) by the Oakland Raiders. Ward, who played two seasons in Champaign after transferring from a junior college, is the first player to be drafted out of the program since 2013.

While his statistics don't exactly jump off the screen, Ward was an integral part of one of the nation's top defenses in 2015. Ward's versatility allowed the Illinois coaches to deploy him all over the defensive line, where he became a reliable and effective run-stuffer.

Year G Solo Ast TOT TFL SK INT TD PD FR FF
2014 (JR) 12 21 29 50 8.5 3.0 0 0 1 4 2
2015 (SR) 12 26 28 54 4.5 2.5 0 0 2 1 2
Career 47 57 104 13.0 5.5 0 0 3 6 4

The 6-foot-5, 297-pound prospect has been on the NFL radar for a few years now, but his value experienced a meteoric rise after his collegiate career concluded. At one point, Ward was projected to be picked as high as the late first round, but his stock eventually settled in the mid-second to early-third range.

Highlights

Ward has the potential to be a very productive player at the next level. He as the look of a perfect 3-4 defensive end, but he could also fit in a 4-3 scheme if he added some more weight and strength. Ward's frame looks like it could handle another 15-20 pounds without losing much athleticism.

For a more detailed scouting report of the Raiders' newest player, click here to view our pre-draft profile.

Get to know Jihad Ward:

Twitter: @JIHADWARD17

Instagram: jihadward

LinkedIn: Jihad Ward

MUST READ: It Was The Journey (Robert Mays, Sports Illustrated)

Jihad Ward was raised in Philly but made in Manhattan, where he endured a grueling daily commute just to get to class and practice at a New York City junior college. As the defensive lineman prepares for next month's NFL draft, memories of those broke, hungry and desperate JUCO days still fuel him.