ALAMEDA — The Raiders drafted Clelin Ferrell to stop the run and pressure the quarterback. Everything else is secondary. Let’s be clear about that.
Production’s the only requirement for a high NFL draft pick, and the Raiders took him No. 4 overall with the belief his scheme fit will facilitate consistent performance.
The Raiders are getting more than that, adding traits deemed important to create a new locker-room culture. Ferrell’s best off-field asset: natural born leadership.
“It was such a good thing to bring in a guy like Clelin so early because he’s one of those guys that just brings people along,” fifth-round receiver Hunter Renfrow, also Ferrell’s teammate at Clemson, said Friday during Raiders rookie minicamp. “He’ll say, ‘Alright, follow me. We’re going to go and we’re going to go do what it takes to win.’”
Ferrell understands leadership is earned. It’s not something that transfers. No matter how much street cred he had at Clemson, that won’t carry over to a Raiders roster loaded with veterans and an established leadership structure.
The defensive end isn’t walking in with his chest puffed out, even if that’s often allowed with status as the No. 4 overall NFL draft pick.
Ferrell started this weekend's Raiders rookie minicamp and subsequent offseason program work looking to showing something.
“Just that I’m a worker,” Ferrell said. “The play is going to come with itself, but I just want to earn the respect of my teammates, that’s the biggest thing. So much going on around because you’re a rookie and don’t know much. Everything is just new, it’s a whole new situation, whole new playbook, whole new teammates, everything. So, just come in with the right mindset and right attitude, work hard and just earn the respect of my teammates is the biggest thing.”
Ferrell learned that respect is earned growing up in a large military family where both his parents served, and he attended a military college prep school.
“It comes from where I grew up and just how I was raised. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s always about your attitude and about your outlook on life,” Ferrell said. “You could always be in a worse situation, you know what I mean? So for me, it’s always about my attitude, so regardless of anything that I’ve ever been through, any struggles or success, you know, I always try to keep a positive attitude because that’s so important just as far as, you know, affecting others and if you want to get out of those situations.”
Ferrell understands that respect is earned with action, and that a message is better-received following solid performance. Helping the team win is the way to good graces, and he’ll need to perform well right away to help a team sorely lacking pressure off the edge.
That was clear heading into the NFL draft, and was a major reason why Ferrell was one of three defensive ends added in nine selections. Fourth-rounder Maxx Crosby and seventh-round pick Quinton Bell are also in this mix, though more development is required – Bell has a ways to go after a late position switch from receiver – to make great impacts.
The Raiders could use Crosby to learn quick and find an early role. Ferrell could help with that.
“He’s gotten bigger and stronger every year that he’s played and some of his second effort production is what stands out the most, but he really tested well at the combine,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s got real big upside and I think he’s got a real big role model to learn from in our first-round pick.”
Crosby and Ferrell met during the pre-draft process, and there’s respect established between the two pass rushers.
“Maxx is someone who is going to be really good too, as long as he just puts his head down and goes to work and takes it all in,” Ferrell said. “There’s going to be good days and bad days, none of them are going to be perfect, we just have to accept that. Just come back, come with the right mindset every day, he’s going to be fine.”
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There’s great confidence Ferrell will be fine in his role. He’s a high-floor player capable of stepping in quickly, though expectations for rookie pass rushers should always be tempered. A strong spring, summer and start to the 2019 season will endear him to those already on the roster.
“Everybody’s been open-arms,” Ferrell said. “They have just been easy with giving out knowledge and things like that. It’s been really good. I’m excited, can’t wait to meet the rest of the team and finish out strong with this minicamp for sure.”