Oakland Raiders: Clelin Ferrell a reach at four, but one born of necessity

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Clelin Ferrell #99 of the Clemson Tigers react against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Clelin Ferrell #99 of the Clemson Tigers react against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The Oakland Raiders shocked many by taking Clelin Ferrell with the fourth overall pick, but it was a selection that was perhaps born of necessity.

The Oakland Raiders certainly launched into the Jon Gruden/Mike Mayock era in interesting fashion. Much to the chagrin of a good portion of the fans.

With a bevy of first-round picks at their disposal, it was imperative they maximize the value of those picks given what they gave up to get them. And depending on who you talk to, opinions are going to vary about the value they added to a Raiders team in desperate need of some talent as they rebuild on the fly.

Most seem to think that by adding Josh Jacobs at pick No. 24, the Raiders scored a direct hit, adding a solid piece to a running game needing some fresh, powerful legs. Some believe the Alabama product to be the best running back in the entire draft class and that he upgrades the running game in a big way — a big way that will be highly beneficial to the passing game.

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Opinions are split on Johnathan Abram, a safety from Mississippi State added with the 27th overall pick. The biggest question surrounding Abram is what his addition means for Karl Joseph, a thumper in the defensive backfield who has become a fan favorite. That question seems even more magnified when you consider how similar their playing styles are.

With the team signing Lamarcus Joyner and re-signing Erik Harris this offseason, the safety room seems to be getting a little crowded, unless the plan is to utilize Joyner in the nickel slot role extensively — which isn’t outside the realm of possibility given Joyner’s athleticism and versatility.

Questions aside, overall, most fans seem satisfied with the addition of Jacobs and Abram and think they’ll help the team.

The biggest source of consternation surrounding Gruden and Mayock’s performance in the first round was their pick at four — Clemson product Clelin Ferrell. The moment Commissioner Roger Goodell read the name on the card, you could hear the collective gasp from the Raider Nation resounding out of Nashville.

Once the shock that the Raiders had just used the fourth overall pick on Ferrell began to set in, the rage and second-guessing began in earnest.

Most scouts had Ferrell ticketed as a first-round pick. Opinions on where in the first round he might fall fluctuated wildly during the run-up to the draft. Some had him in the top-ten, others in the mid-teens, and still others had him landing somewhere in the twenties. Where most seemed to agree was that he was not a top-five pick.

And yet, here we are.

The one thing fans need to remember is that Ferrell has been widely considered one of the best pass rushing prospects in this year’s draft class. Aside from Nick Bosa (whom the San Francisco 49ers snapped up at two), some scouts had Ferrell pegged as the second-best prospect in the draft. Others put Jacksonville’s Josh Allen ahead of him on their boards — though still behind Bosa.

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The point is, Ferrell was one of the top three (if not top two, again depending on who you talked to) pass rushing prospects in this year’s draft. And for a team that had a total of 13 sacks last year — a number that was dead last in the league by a country mile as well as a number surpassed by six individual players — it was obvious they needed and were going to snag a pass rusher.

And despite the frustration, consternation, and outrage over using the fourth overall pick on him, the Raiders are getting a very solid player.

At 6-foot-4, 264 pounds, they’re getting a guy with excellent size. They’re also getting a player who has speed to burn and can penetrate into the backfield using a variety of moves. He’s strong, powerful, and quick. In three years as a starter at Clemson (44 total games), Ferrell notched 27.5 sacks and 50.5 tackles for a loss.

This is a guy who can step in on day one and have an impact. A guy who can help elevate the defense and make the unit as a whole better. And hey, he’s a guy who can maybe help this team not be dead last in sacks in the league yet again. What a concept, huh?

The most common refrain heard after Ferrell’s selection last night was that if Gruden and Mayock coveted him so much, why not trade back, accrue a little more draft capital, and pounce on him later?

The simple answer is that in a first round that went defense heavy (there were only 11 offensive players selected in the first round and of those, six were linemen), there was no guarantee that Ferrell would actually be where they ended up trading back to.

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Defensive linemen were flying off the board in round one, with thirteen defensive ends and tackles being selected. Which makes it entirely feasible that Gruden and Mayock feared Ferrell wouldn’t be available if they’d traded back into the teens or twenties.

Let’s also not forget that they would have had to have had a willing dance partner to trade back. They can’t just announce they want to trade back and have it be so.

If Gruden and Mayock weren’t thrilled with the offers they were getting to trade back and they weren’t convinced their guy would be there when they were on the clock after trading back, they couldn’t risk pulling the trigger on a deal and miss out on getting a guy who they obviously wanted.

You don’t trade back just for the sake of trading back. It’s all about adding value and believing you’ll still land the big fish you want.

It was clear they coveted Ferrell. It was equally as clear that they had a desperate need to get some pass rushing help. Was snapping him up at four a bit of a reach? Yeah, maybe. Probably.

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But with defensive linemen flying off the board in the first round, they may have had zero alternatives. If it was a reach, it may have been a reach entirely born of necessity.

And let’s not forget that in Clelin Ferrell, the Oakland Raiders are getting a pretty damn good player.