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The Oakland Raiders selected Illinois defensive end Jihad Ward with the 44th overall pick in the NFL draft on Friday.

 

Ward had 104 tackles with 4 ½ sacks and 12 tackles for losses during two seasons with the Illini.

The 6-foot-6, 295-pound Ward suffered a knee injury during the first week of practice in August and was expected to miss time recovering but wound up playing in all 12 games.

 

The Raiders' decision to draft Ward comes amid uncertainty over the health of second-year defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., a second-round pick last year who suffered a neck injury late during his rookie season.

 

Oakland has used its first two picks on defense after finishing 22nd overall under first-year coach Jack Del Rio. The Raiders drafted West Virginia safety Karl Joseph with their first-round pick.

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