Raiders

How Raiders ended up picking Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 in 2019 NFL Draft

How Raiders ended up picking Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 in 2019 NFL Draft

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.”

[RELATED: Raiders taking Clelin Ferrell No. 4 surprised many]

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.”

NFL preview 2019: Derek Carr, three other possible MVP sleepers in AFC

carrusa.jpg
USATSI

NFL preview 2019: Derek Carr, three other possible MVP sleepers in AFC

With training camps getting started, hope once again springs eternal in the NFL.

Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots are primed to defend their crown, but a pack of worthy challengers is frothing at the mouth for the chance to take down the king.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes sits atop the NFL's other throne as The Shield's reigning league MVP. The dynamic signal-caller once again is viewed as the favorite to take home the hardware, and while the like of Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Baker Mayfield, Carson Wentz, Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers are viewed as the most likely to take the crown from Mahomes, the AFC has a few other young passers who are lying in wait.

When looking at possible MVP sleepers in the AFC, I made sure to look only at players that had odds at 80-to-1 or higher, as listed by Westgate Las Vegas. With the framework set, here are four potential MVP sleepers who reside in the AFC.

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders

The Case For: Carr has the arm talent and the leadership qualities to be an MVP. We saw that in 2016 when he led the Raiders to a 12-3 record before fracturing his fibula in Week 16. With a wealth of offensive talent around -- including Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, -- and a full year of Jon Gruden's system under his belt, it wouldn't be hard to see Carr returning to his MVP-caliber form in 2019. If he puts up big numbers while helping the Raiders navigate a tough early-season schedule, he should be in the mix.

The Case Against: There was little about the Raiders' offense in 2018 that would tell you a turn around is coming. The offensive line struggled and the running game was relatively non-existent. This is a make or break year for the Carr-Gruden relationship and there's a chance it just won't work.

Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans

The Case For: Despite a shaky offensive line, Watson completed 68.3 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,165 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 551 yards and five scores. If the Clemson product can get some protection, he could put up big numbers and lead the Texans to another AFC West title. The recipe for an MVP campaign is there for Watson.

The Case Against: The offensive line is atrocious. Watson might spend more time running for his life than looking downfield for the streaking DeAndre Hopkins. If the Texans can't keep Watson off his back, there will be no MVP delusions in Houston.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans

The Case For: When he's been healthy, Mariota has put up good numbers. That was with an offense designed for the 1940s with one offensive weapon. Mariota enters a make-or-break year for him with the Titans with two new wide receivers in rookie A.J. Brown and former Buccaneers Adam Humphries. If new offensive coordinator Arthur Humphries can tailor the offense to Mariota's strengths, the possibility for a breakout season is there.

The Case Against: Look, he hasn't been able to stay healthy. If Mariota can't stay on the field, then his chance at winning the MVP and the Titans' playoff hopes go in the trash can.

[RELATED: How Raiders' defense stacks up against AFC West rivals]

Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens

The Case For: Jackson rushed for 556 yards in the seven games he started last season. If you extrapolate that over a 16-game season, it amounts to 1,271 yards. That would be more than the 1,039 yards Michael Vick rushed for in 2006. If Jackson has improved his passing and leads the Ravens to the playoffs, he could very well be an MVP sleeper.

The Case Against: As the Los Angeles Chargers showed in the AFC Wild Card Game, it's easy to stop Jackson if he's only able to move the chains with his legs. If the Louisville product hasn't made big strides with his accuracy and pocket presence then he won't be in the MVP conversation.

Raiders' Jon Gruden ranked as 15th-best veteran head coach by NFL.com

grudenrankingap.jpg
AP

Raiders' Jon Gruden ranked as 15th-best veteran head coach by NFL.com

Just win, baby.

Twice in his career, Jon Gruden has been given that directive as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. He was considerably more successful the first time around.

Gruden never finished below .500 in his first go-around with the Raiders, but in making his return to the franchise last year, he led Oakland to a 4-12 record -- tied for the worst record in the AFC.

Right after Gruden signed a 10-year, $100 million contract to move out of the Monday Night Football booth and back to the sidelines, many questioned whether his time away from coaching would put him behind the eight-ball. Given how the Raiders performed last season, it didn't exactly silence that noise.

And yet, at least one analyst believes Gruden is still an above-average coach. NFL.com's Elliot Harrison ranked the 32 NFL head coaches Monday, and Gruden came in at No. 15.

Here's what Harrison had to say about Chucky:

"As [Gruden] shipped out star players and cut ties with front office execs he didn't want in Oakland last year, the Raiders managed just four wins. That's why '19 should be the tell on what kind of coach he is going forward. New GM Mike Mayock helped Gruden begin to rebuild the roster after stockpiling picks, providing an infusion of talent that should at least make this team more competitive. Given the strength of the division-rival Chargers and Chiefs, simply leading Oakland to the playoffs should be a ringing endorsement for the coach."

[RELATED: Raiders given 20th best outlook in future power rankings]

Indeed, if they make the playoffs this coming season, that's an undeniable success for Gruden and the Raiders in their final season in Oakland -- one that would be worthy of Gruden ascending on next year's coaching rankings. But, as Harrison suggests, it's not going to be easy.