Raiders

Clemson's Clelin Ferrell wants to be what Aldon Smith should've been in NFL

Clemson's Clelin Ferrell wants to be what Aldon Smith should've been in NFL

SAN JOSE -- Clelin Ferrell wasn't randomly given No. 99 at Clemson. It was chosen, then proudly worn in homage to his favorite pass rusher of all time.

It's a man the Bay Area knows well.

That’s right: Aldon Smith.

The University of Missouri product had an unreal start to his NFL career, with 42 sacks in his first three seasons with the 49ers. Then it went supernova, destroyed by off-the-field issues, suspensions and run-ins with the law. Smith hasn’t played NFL football since an abbreviated 2015 campaign with the Raiders, battling well-documented issues with substances of abuse.

Ferrell knows that Smith has his demons. Ferrell also knows that few pass rushers were better than Smith at his best.

“I know his career didn’t pan out the way a lot of people wanted, but (he’s) the reason I wear No. 99,” Ferrell said Saturday during College Football National Championship media day at SAP Center. “I feel like I could be … and I don't know if anything’s over with [Smith's career] -- that’s still in the works -- but I feel like I can be what he should've been and where he should be in his career right now.

“I know he has had some setbacks, and I always pray that he'll return to the level he was. I always looked up to him and his game."

Ferrell has the talent to play at an Smith-like level. He has ideal size at 6-foot-4, 265 pounds. He also has ideal speed, athleticism and length, but he isn’t just a workout warrior. He has steadily produced for Clemson, with 27 sacks over three seasons heading into Monday’s national championship game against Alabama at Levi’s Stadium, where Smith briefly played. Ferrell has 21 sacks in the last two years, far more than Smith had in two years as a collegian.

Ferrell is a better run defender than many think, something he’d like you to know before stereotyping him as a situational pass rusher.

Ferrell ranks high among college football’s edge rushers -- he won the Ted Hendricks Award as the nation’s best defensive end -- and he should be a top-10 pick if he declares for the 2019 NFL draft. He could be a Raiders target as high as No. 4, or if the Silver and Black trade back a smidge to acquire more picks.

He would fill a pressing need rushing off the edge and setting it in the run game -- two traits lacking in the 2018 Raiders defensive front.

“He has a great future,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “He’s long, athletic and has great speed. He has instincts and some real natural talent, but also has character and work ethic and the fortitude to out-compete and fight and be a great leader. He has great humility to him. All those things translate to the next level and will help him transition to the NFL. He’ll be very prepared for what’s in front of him.”

[RELATED: Mock drafts' guess on how the Raiders will use the No. 4 pick]

Ferrell hasn’t formally decided whether to turn pro, but he’s expected to at some point after Monday’s game. The redshirt junior could’ve done so last year, but he returned to school, then dominated the 2018 season, with 11.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. He was named a first-team All-American for the second consecutive year, and he has accomplished almost everything at the amateur level.

He still didn’t want to tip his hand just yet, and swears he can tune out all the draft talk while focusing on what could be his last game at Clemson.

“I was blessed to be in a position (last year) where my name was involved in draft talk, but I can't control all of that,” Ferrell said. “It’s such a long process from now to making a decision and through the draft. I’m not really thinking about it, because so much can happen between then and now. I’ll make a decision at the end of the season.

"I just focus on what’s in front of me, and that’s the national championship game. That’s why I came to Clemson, to win a title. I owe that to the team and the program to remain 100 percent focused on that.”

NFL rumors: Donald Trump says season should start on time despite coronavirus

NFL rumors: Donald Trump says season should start on time despite coronavirus

President Donald Trump held a call with the commissioners of major American sports leagues Saturday, and offered a prediction for the upcoming NFL season.

Trump told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the other members on the call that the NFL season should start on time despite the coronavirus outbreak, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Adam Schefter reported. Trump reportedly told the commissioners that he expects arenas and stadiums to be filled come August and September, according to Wojnarowski and Schefter.

However, it's currently unclear if public health officials agree with Trump's prediction. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as well as a lead member of the White House's coronavirus taskforce, told Warriors star Steph Curry that sports only can return once the country as a whole has turned the corner with the outbreak and the medical system no longer is under strain. Then it will be easier to identify cases, and the cities won't be overwhelmed.

It is unknown when sports will return and how it will look when they do.

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While Trump's optimism might lift some spirits, it will be up to public health officials to determine when it is safe for sports to begin and be held with fans in attendance. With many epidemiologists expecting the virus to surge in the fall, the NFL's season could be in jeopardy.

While all major sports currently are on pause, the NFL is planning to start the season on schedule and hold games as normal with fans in attendance.

The NBA suspended its season indefinitely after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11. The NHL, MLB, PGA Tour and MLS all followed suit, with the NCAA choosing to cancel the men's and women's tournaments altogether.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver reportedly said on the call that his league would love to "lead the way" in jumpstarting the economy but they only can do so once they are told by public health officials that it is safe.

[RELATED: Raiders reportedly eyeing DT at No. 19 in draft]

Trump reportedly also brought up the idea of the leagues lobbying for a tax credit that used to exist for fans. This credit would allow fans to deduct concessions and ticket prices from their taxes, according to Schefter and Wojnarowski.

The call included commissioners and top executives from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, WNBA, WWE, PGA Tour, LPGA, UFC, IndyCar and Breeders' Cup, according to a White House pool report.

As of Saturday, there were more than 270,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 7,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and NBC News reporting.

NFL draft rumors: Raiders expected to take defensive tackle in Round 1

NFL draft rumors: Raiders expected to take defensive tackle in Round 1

The Raiders stocked up in free agency, spending big to fix a defense that was leaky at best in 2019.

Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock now must turn their attention to hitting another home run in the NFL draft. With the No. 12 and No. 19 overall picks, most expect the Raiders, who have glaring needs at wide receiver and cornerback, to address those holes in some manner with their first two picks. That might not be where Gruden and Mayock are planning to go, though.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller reported Friday, citing league sources, that most around the league expect the Silver and Black to draft a top wide receiver with the No. 12 pick, but use their second pick on a "middle-of-the-field" defender since the Raiders would like to make an upgrade at defensive tackle.

The middle of the field was a massive problem for the Raiders' defense in 2019. But they went out and added defensive tackle Maliek Collins and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski to lead the unit. They also lucked into signing safety Damarious Randall, upgrading the middle of the field at all three levels.

However, the Raiders do still need some help in the middle of their defensive line. Collins is young and thrives beating double teams, but he only signed a one-year deal. Maurice Hurst had a nice 2019 but he still needs to improve and Johnathan Hankins, while great against the run, doesn't move the needle rushing the passer.

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If the Raiders do want to draft a defensive tackle -- it might not be the best use of a first-round pick -- there are a few elite talents they could look at.

Derrick Brown leads this year's defensive tackle class. The 6-foot-5, 318-pound Auburn product might be the most complete defensive tackle to enter the draft since Aaron Donald. He has powerful hands, an unreal motor and can play in odd and even fronts. He's a Day 1 plug-and-play starter with All-Pro potential. Brown is expected to be a top-10 pick so the likelihood of him donning and Silver and Black is low.

Second on the list is South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Gamecock is an elite pass-rusher with all the tools and the strength of a bull. He has a great first step and unreal explosiveness. Kinlaw might be a shade below Brown but he appears to have Pro Bowler written all over him. He could be available for the Raiders at No. 12, but it's doubtful he slips to No. 19.

The next two players are end of Day 1-beginning of Day 2 guys, which means the Raiders must be sure they can contribute right away to take them at No. 19 or must trade down to make the pick lineup with the talent.

Next up is TCU's Ross Blacklock, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound load who has all the goods to be a star at the NFL level. Blacklock has the size, length, power and athleticism to be a dynamic playmaker at the NFL level. While some evaluators believe it might take him some time to adjust to the NFL game, he has all the tools you want in a three-down interior defensive lineman.

The last high-end interior defensive lineman is Oklahoma's Neville Gallimore. The rare defensive tackle that is defined by his speed, the 6-foot-2, 302-pound Gallimore has all the looks of a Day 1 NFL starter who can collapse the pocket and put the quarterback on his heels. His quickness, motor and power are traits that leap off the tape.

[RELATED: McKinney headlines top DB prospects for Raiders to target]

Now a middle-of-the-field defender could mean a safety like Alabama's Xavier McKinney, which would mean the Raiders would shift Randall to corner where they have a huge hole after Eli Apple's contract couldn't get finalized.

If Kinlaw or Brown falls to the Raiders, Gruden and Mayock should snap them up. Both would be a powerful inside presence who could open up rushing lanes for Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby.

But if both are off the board and corner like Florida's C.J. Henderson or even LSU's Kristian Fulton still are available, it might be wise to address to cornerback need first and see if a defensive tackle like Davon Hamilton,  Raekwon Davis or Justin Madubuike falls to them in the third round.