The Oakland Raiders turned a lot of heads when they decided to draft former Clemson EDGE rusher Clelin Ferrell with the fourth-overall pick in this year’s draft. Most of the knocks against Ferrell was that he lacked a lot of elite athletic traits. However, that’s not what may be worrying the Raiders.
Ferrell has been consistently praised for his high character and that hasn’t changed. That being said, according to ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez, there are people in the organization that are concerned that he’s not “mean enough.” Gutierrez also notes that Ferrell looks “physically impressive,” but he’s still behind Arden Key and Benson Mayowa on the depth chart.
It’s still very early in the process for Ferrell and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to prove himself. He has the support of his head coach Jon Gruden. “We think Ferrell has the credentials to be an every-down defensive end,” Gruden said, “and also be a guy that we can build our defensive line around.”
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Can’t be any Worse
According to Pro Football Focus, The Raiders sported the worst front-seven in the entire NFL last season. The only player that played somewhat well was rookie defensive tackle Maurice Hurst and he lead the Raiders with four sacks on the year. The Raiders finished the season with a league-low 13 sacks in total. The next worst team was the Miami Dolphins and they totaled 31 on the year. Former Raider Khalil Mack gave the Chicago Bears 12.5 sacks all by himself and he missed two games. Point is, the Raiders had a very sorry pass rush last year.
Clelin Ferrell is coming off a very productive year at Clemson where he totaled 11.5 sacks in a campaign that ended with a National Title. If he even got half as many sacks in his rookie season, he’d still total more than the Raiders leader did last year. In addition, the Raiders have upgraded all over the defense this offseason. They got a couple of solid new linebackers in Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall. The secondary was also addressed in free agency and early in the draft. Leaving fewer receivers open will allow the front-seven a lot more time to get to the quarterback, which should lead to more sacks.
The Raiders likely won’t need to solely rely on their new additions on defense this offseason as there were some promising young guys that should improve. Defensive end Arden Key is entering his second year and Coach Gruden is looking for him to “play better” this season. The previously mentioned Hurst has all the tools to become a star for the Raiders and he’ll be even better in year two. If the Raiders can get more out of these two guys and the new guys live up to the hype, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s group could look completely different in 2019.
Clelin Ferrell may have been a reach at number four in the draft, but he’s an instant upgrade and should be expected to make his way into the starting lineup before the season begins.