Ferrell Could Be Much Improved in 2020

Raiders’ top draft pick from 2019 could be poised to be a better pass-rusher and more complete defensive end in his second year

Oakland Raiders defensive end Clelin Ferrell.
Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Clelin Ferrell had a solid rookie season for the Raiders in 2019, but “solid” isn’t exactly the word NFL teams want to describe a player taken with the No. 4 overall choice in the draft.

With the fourth pick, teams want spectacular, playmaking and dynamic – not solid.

But the Raiders believe 2019 was just a first step for Ferrell, the former Clemson standout.

As a rookie, Ferrell started 15 games at defensive end. He had 38 combined tackles (eight for loss), 4.5 sacks, eight quarterback hits, 15 quarterback pressures, five batted passes and a fumble recovery. 

Ferrell didn’t produce eye-popping sack totals – his rookie teammate and   defensive end Maxx Crosby eclipsed him with 10 – but he was good against the run and showed overall improvement. And, head coach Jon Gruden said during the season that Ferrell does a lot of things well.

“He’s not a specialized pass rusher that comes in 30 snaps a game and cuts it loose,” said Gruden. “A lot of the production that we’ve got from Ferrell is production that no one really knows about.”

Gruden believes Ferrell has “the potential” for more sacks in year No. 2.

So do others.

In a story this week for CBS Sports, NFL analyst Jordan Dajani included Ferrell in his list of three Raiders poised to have breakout 2020 seasons. 

Dajani says some analysts in 2019 believed the Raiders “reached” for Ferrell much earlier in the draft than expected – he was billed as a first-rounder, but not a top-five pick – but he sees Ferrell as a dynamic player in 2020. He says Ferrell can be “great,” and projects him to have 9.5 sacks and 61 combined tackles (including 16 for loss) in his second pro season.

Wrote Dajani: “The Raiders aren’t going to give up on the player they supposedly reached on. … Ferrell has the potential to be a part of a dynamic pass-rushing duo with Crosby.”

Ferrell impressed the Raiders with his work ethic and character in 2019, and his desire to be a good citizen has carried over into 2020. This week, Ferrell donated $100,000 to families in his hometown of Richmond, Va., to help them pay for rent and other necessities during this COVID-19 crisis.

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