The Las Vegas Raiders had a lot of first-round draft picks during Jon Gruden’s stint as head coach with the team but they didn’t use them wisely. Out of the seven first-round picks the team made under the coach, only one definitely has a long-term future in Kolton Miller. The left tackle earned a contract extension last offseason and will be with the team for a long time.
Running back Josh Jacobs is the second-best first-round pick Gruden made as he was a Pro Bowler in 2020 and is a very good player. Perhaps the worst pick the team made during his stint was selecting defensive end Clelin Ferrell with the fourth overall pick in the 2019 draft. He was considered a reach at the time and opinions on him have only gotten lower.
Ferrell lost his starting spot last season and has a total of 8.0 sacks in three seasons. With a new coaching staff and front office being brought in this offseason, the Raiders don’t have any loyalty to former first-round picks. That could mean trouble for Ferrell but head coach Josh McDaniels isn’t counting him out yet. He’s going to evaluate the defensive end with an open mind.
“I think everybody, for us, it’s going to be a clean slate,” McDaniels said at NFL owners meetings, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic. “I am really not as interested in what they’ve done as much as what we can do moving forward. He’ll earn his role. Whatever the role is going to be, he’ll earn it. We might have some things we ask him to do that he hasn’t done as much of — but that might fit him better.”
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Raiders Will Likely Decline Ferrell’s 5th-Year Option
Ferrell will get every chance to change the narrative about him this season. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham likes bigger defensive ends and he fits the mold at 6-foot-4, 265 pounds. There’s a good chance that Ferrell will be one of the defensive ends in 3-4 sets and rushing downs. He could also see more time at defensive tackle.
However, on May 2 the Raiders have to decide if they want to pick up or decline Ferrell’s fifth-year option. Based on his past performance, the team will almost certainly decline the option. That won’t affect his status with the team this season and it’s unlikely he gets cut but guaranteeing him a fifth year is highly unlikely.
McDaniels ‘Excited’ About Malcolm Koonce
One interesting player to keep an eye on is Malcolm Koonce. The 2021 third-round pick only suited up for five games last season but looks impressive in spurts. He had two sacks in his first two games before cooling down. McDaniels had a chance to talk about the young pass rusher.
“We’re going to work with him in a lot of different areas,” McDaniels said. “He is a talented guy. I am excited about him.”
It’s difficult to have a full evaluation on Koonce as he only played 48 defensive snaps. He’s got plenty of talent as a pass rusher and could be a legit player if Graham can continue to develop him.