ALAMEDA -- Raiders general manager Mike Mayock called Clelin Ferrell with some good news. The Clemson defensive end was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on Thursday night, accepting all the expectations that come with it.
Fair or not, Ferrell’s performance will be judged by his draft slot and who all those draft analysts thought should’ve been taken before him. That list is long.
The Raiders’ draft board was the only list that mattered, and they made the decision to stay at No. 4 and take a player whom outsiders believe would’ve been available later.
“It all goes back to this: There were flashier players who people may have had higher on their boards,” Mayock said. “On our board, it was him and Bosa right next to each other at that position.”
Mayock and head coach/football czar Jon Gruden had Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa high on their priority list, and explored a move up to get him, but the 49ers snatched him without reservation at No. 2 overall.
That left Ferrell as the next best defensive end option available, and the Raiders were sure to get him at No. 4.
Trades were explored at that spot, but none fit the Raiders' liking. Getting any extra pick along with the guy you want is preferred, but there’s no guarantee Ferrell would’ve been around.
“You get phone calls, and you have to make some considerations,” Mayock said. “You make phone calls and do the same thing. At the end of the day, we didn’t think there was anything of enough value to cause us to change our plans.”
The plan was to nab an edge rusher early, and Ferrell was next up on the Raiders’ draft board that perfectly fit their defensive scheme and the locker-room culture the Raiders are trying to create.
“We pretty much knew he would be there,” Mayock said. “Everybody else had all the big names up there, but Jon and I came in this morning and double-checked everything, and he was our guy. ...
“He checked all the boxes. He’s going to be a three-down player. He’s 267 pounds. He’s a captain. When you talk to the guys at Clemson, they say he was the cornerstone of that defense. Everything he does reminds me of what we want in the Raiders.”
The Raiders are looking for leadership and character from a draft class that will be featured players when the team relocates to Las Vegas in 2020. They want guys who star on the field and look good on billboards as they transition to a new market.
Ferrell impressed Mayock and Gruden at meetings, and convinced them he could handle the pressure and adversity associated with a draft pick many didn’t expect to go so high.
“We sat in the room with Ferrell at the combine, and I think he’s one of nine kids, from a military whose father passed away,” Mayock said. “This kid can do so much, and all he had was this ball of positive energy. He was the energizer bunny for this national championship defense at Clemson. Everyone we talked to a Clemson said he was the guy.
"He had dealt with adversity. Playing in the national title game was nothing. Neither will coming out here. He has been through worse. He understands how to handle this, how to handle Las Vegas.”
There’s no doubt Ferrell is a schematic fit at defensive end, with the size and versatility to play well in the system.
“It’s very important, especially with the offenses we play in this division,” Mayock said. “A guy like Ferrell can play either side of the line of scrimmage and kick inside. That was important for [defensive coordinator] Paul Guenther.”