The Bust? Year In Review: Clelin Ferrell

“With the fourth overall pick of the NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders select: Clelin Ferrell Defensive End, Clemson.” Those words bewildered the football world in Nashville, Tennessee last year. A top five pick is expected to be a cornerstone of a NFL franchise for the foreseeable future. With that being said, Clelin has received more criticism than praise for his 2019 NFL season.

A few individuals like this gentleman have labeled the 2019 fourth overall pick a bust. It is interesting when you look at the top four picks of this past draft, one name is not like the others.

  1. Kyler Murray – Arizona Cardinals
  2. Nick Bosa – San Fransisco 49ers
  3. Quinnen Williams – New York Jets
  4. Clelin Ferrell – Oakland Raiders

The first two selections of the draft are frontrunners for offensive rookie of the year and defensive rookie of the year respectively. The third pick help the Jets field the second best rush defense in 2019. The outlier comes after that, who is not remotely in consideration for defensive rookie of the year. In fact, the Raiders fourth round selection, Maxx Crosby, is in the running with 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa for the award. Crosby’s 10 sack performance as a rookie is the production you would expect from a top 5 draft pick. So it begs the question, what did the first Raiders selection display in his rookie season that made him a ‘bust’?

Related: Year in Review: Trent Brown

Strengths

1. Run Defense

There was one major facet the 2018 Ted Hendricks award (Best College DE) winner took from Clemson to Oakland, his elite ability to disrupt opposing rushing attacks from college to the pros.

By the season’s end, his consistent efforts in stopping the run started to look like this:

Raider Nation witnessed Ferrell progress week by week against the run. Ultimately, he became a vital piece to an Oakland rush defense that finished in the top 10 in that category.

2. Instinct

Speaking of disruptive play, Ferrell’s instinct was another major strength in his arsenal. Players are either proactive or reactive, and more often than not, the defensive end made intuitive plays that the casual eye would take for granted.

For a rookie in his third game ever, this is a play where many would have lost their football bearing and developed hungry eyes for an unprotected quarterback with the ball. The Clemson product held firm and recognized the play immediately, then blew it up even quicker. Ferrell displayed high football IQ with instinctive ability that cannot be taught. A big checkmark for a foundational franchise player.

3. Performance of the Year

I would not normally list a player’s performance of the year as a strength, but it is necessary for Clelin Ferrell. His game against the Chargers on Thursday Night Football displayed what he can become as a complete player.

Ferrell led the Raider defense with 2.5 sacks. His pass rushing ability, that many questioned, was put on display. A show of power midway through his rookie season reassured Raider Nation that he has the ability to make as much of a difference as a pass rusher as he can a run defender. Ultimately, his performance propelled Oakland to the final primetime victory in the Coliseum. In a big game he was a major difference maker with his performance, just another checkmark for what you are looking for in a foundational player.

Weaknesses

With all of the above being said, he does have flaws. Ferrell was responsible for 7 penalties in 2019. That’s not an egregious number, but when all of those penalties are presnap penalties (four offside and three neutral zone infractions), it was not a good look. Two of the offside penalties came on the the same drive in the second quarter against Los Angeles. For the same penalty to occur by the same player on the same drive is unacceptable no matter what. Another weakness in the defensive end’s game is his overall inconsistency as a pass rusher. Considering that he had 2.5 sacks in one game, to finish the season with 4.5 sacks total isn’t exactly the premier pass rushing talent that you’d expect from a top five pick. Per Pro Football Focus, Ferrell’s pass rush win rate was below 10% and placed him in the bottom five of all edge defenders in 2019. However, being utilized at multiple positions along the defensive line is not conducive to a rookie’s learning curve either. For his most effective development, he needs to remain on the edge where he has the most success. With that being said, his pass rushing repertoire is lacking and needs to be addressed in the offseason if the Raiders want a complete defensive end in Las Vegas.

Moving Forward

As a rookie, Ferrell had numerous dominant performances as a run defender. He also made instinctive plays on defense as well. Overall, he didn’t have a bad rookie season, but it wasn’t the greatest considering his lack of pass rush production. Most importantly, the season did display shades of the complete defensive edge he can become. The word ‘bust’ should not be used when describing the Clemson product. In fact, labeling anyone as a bust in their first three seasons is absurd and disrespectful. The NFL learning curve is one of the steepest in all sports. There’s a reason College Football freshman aren’t allowed to enter the NFL draft after one season. If anything, Ferrell showed promise and answered questions about the season and future.

Raider Nation will hold you to your vow for change in 2020, trust and believe that.

You may also like: Moving up or moving on? Vol. 4: Tight End

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