In the days leading up to the NFL draft, there were rumors the Raiders would make a surprise selection with the fourth pick in Round 1.
It turned out those rumors were right.
The Raiders – with the first of three first-round choices in the first round Thursday night – selected defensive end Clelin Ferrell of Clemson.
It was no surprise Oakland went for a defensive end with pass-rush ability. The Raiders had an NFL-low 13 sacks in 2018. They needed a dynamic edge rusher. But at No. 4, it was speculated that player would be Kentucky’s Josh Allen or Michigan’s Rashan Gary. Or perhaps a defensive tackle such as Ed Oliver of Houston or linebacker Devin White.
Ferrell was projected as a first-round talent – but a low first-round pick. So as soon as the Raiders announced he was their man, analysts and fans immediately expressed their opinion on social media that the team had whiffed on its pick and that Ferrell was a reach. One NFL executive on hearing the news, told Jason Cole of the website Fansided that Gruden had botched the pick.
Yet the 6-foot-4, 264-pounder was a productive defender against the run and pass and a leader of a Clemson team that won a national title. He won the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation’s top defensive end this past season and had 53 tackles – including 19½ for loss – 11½ sacks and three forced fumbles.
He may not turn out to be Khalil Mack – the Raiders’ star who was traded away – but it’s possible Ferrell could be a very good player – and pass rusher.
But Ferrell was only one part of the Raiders’ story in Round 1. The Raiders with the 24th choice took running back Josh Jacobs of Alabama, judged the top player at his position, and added safety Johnathan Abram of Mississippi State at No. 27.
Jacobs likely will be the team’s lead back in 2019 with the retirement of Marshawn Lynch. The 5-10, 220-pounder excels as both a runner and receiver and is known for picking up yards after contact.
Abram, 5-11 and 205 pounds, gives the team an athletic, hard-hitting young player to go with free-agent pickup Lamarcus Joyner and Karl Joseph at safety. He’s a wide-ranging, sure-tackling player who led Mississippi State in tackles in 2018.
The Raiders now go into Rounds 2 and 3 Friday with a chance to pick up another impact player, having the third pick (35th overall) in the second round, which is set to begin at 4 p.m. (Bay Area time). Oakland has no third-round pick.