Clelin Ferrell had an underwhelming start to his rookie season.
Through Week 8, Ferrell only had 1 QB pressure and had not sacked, hit, or pressured the quarterback since Week 1 against the Denver Broncos where he recorded his first career sack.
Rookie fourth-rounder Maxx Crosby recorded better pass rushing statistics in single games than the fourth overall pick did through eight weeks, which had the impatient already throwing out the dreaded B-word.
Ferrell finally became visible against the Detroit Lions in Week 9, not recording a sack, tackle for loss, or QB hit but earning his best grade per Pro Football Focus up to that point.
He followed that performance up with the best game of his young career, taking Philip Rivers down 2.5 times while getting two tackles for a loss, three quarterback hits, and one pass deflection in a Thursday night matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.
He failed to keep up the pass rush productivity for the remainder of the season, only getting one more sack through the final seven games.
Ferrell did, however, step up against the run big, and finished the last quarter of the season on a high note.
From Weeks 11-15, Ferrell was graded as the No. 9 defensive lineman in the NFL per Pro Football Focus with a grade of 81.4, which was the highest among all rookie defensive lineman during that span.
In those five weeks, Ferrell did not record a sack, but his stellar play against the run bolstered his grade to his highest marks week to week.
Take a look at the Raiders rushing defense statistics from 2018 to 2019:
- 2018: 2,249 yards rushing allowed, 4.7 yards per carry
- 2019: 1,570 yards rushing allowed, 3.9 yards per carry
That is a huge improvement, and no doubt Ferrell has played a role in that jump.
Ferrell may not have lived up to his draft status, and probably never will.
But with the success of the draft class as a whole — as long as Ferrell develops into at least a solid anchor on the edge — it won’t be a draft pick fans should look back at in disgust, especially when you look at this team’s recent draft history.