Raiders

Raiders need instant impact from Clelin Ferrell right away as rookie

Raiders need instant impact from Clelin Ferrell right away as rookie

The Raiders are trying to rebound from a disatrous 4-12 season, and need strong showings from many members of their NFL draft class. That's especially true on defense, where general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden loaded up on young talent.

Clelin Ferrell was the marquee selection, a defensive end taken fourth overall out of Clemson to fill a position of great need.

We'll take a look at the best-case scenario for Ferrell's rookie season, the worst possible outcome and what's realistic for a do-it-all scheme fit expected to play right away. We'll put different Raiders draft picks through the same paces each day, so check back Thursday morning for our Josh Jacobs breakdown.

Right now, let's dive into what the Raiders need from Ferrell:

Clelin Ferrell

Draft slot:No. 4 overall (First round)
Position: Defensive end
Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 264 pounds
School: Clemson

Skill set

Let’s say it simply. Ferrell is a complete defensive end. He can set an edge and rush the passer. He’s technically sound, tough and tenacious, with strong leadership skill. He may not be as flashy as other top-5 edge rushers of this draft class or any other, but he was a highly productive college player who could well be a highly productive pro despite missing elite measurable athleticism.

Ferrell’s exactly what the Raiders need up front, as defensive coordinator Paul Guenther puts it, a stable three-down defender who will show up and work hard every day.

Training camp proving ground

Coaches were impressed with his tenacity and a real grinder’s work ethic. It’s hard to evaluate a new player just learning the system seeing him once a week during open OTA practices, especially when they weren’t in pads, so training camp will provide a clearer picture of where Ferrell is as a rookie.

It’s always difficult to expect an immediate impact from rookies, even those drafted so high, but Ferrell needs to be steady and flash in practice, especially when the L.A. Rams come to Napa on Aug. 7-8. Battles with Kolton Miller and Trent Brown will also be key in his development, when he cracks the first unit.

Going up against massive size (Brown) and solid athleticism from a big frame (Miller) in pads should help prepare him for the difficulties of facing NFL tackles each week.

Best-case scenario

It was hard to find analysts with bad things to say about Ferrell’s game. The element of surprise came from his draft position, something he wasn’t in charge of. The Raiders are so thin off the edge that they need Ferrell to step in and play three downs right away. They’re certainly hoping he’s not just occupying space, and can produce at his Clemson level.

He had 27 sacks in three seasons as a starter, and getting to nine as a first-year pro would be huge for the Raiders and his long-term future. Comparing Ferrell to Khalil Mack is ultimately unfair, but they’ll come his way nonetheless. Let’s not forget that Mack had just four sacks as a rookie, often generating pressure but rarely getting home.

Working nine sacks out of the season would be huge for the Raiders, and double digits with solid run play would send Ferrell jerseys flying off the shelves.

Worst-case scenario

The Raiders need a three-down end. They likely won’t have one on the other side, splitting run/pass duties between Josh Mauro and Arden Key, respectively. They need someone capable against the run and pass, a stable and productive force to pick this defensive line up off the mat after a disastrous 2018 season where the Raiders were outmanned regularly during a year with just 13 sacks (as a team!!) and gave up 140 rushing yards per game.

Let’s be honest: This defensive line is in huge trouble if Ferrell can’t make an immediate impact. That would spell disaster for the Raiders' defense if he doesn’t show well, and lower-round pick Maxx Crosby doesn’t make up for that by playing out of his mind.

Realistic expectations

Ferrell’s a rookie. Let’s not forget that when evaluating his season this winter. Again, he didn’t control his draft slot. He plays for the team that took him, and seven sacks and realtively steady run play is a respectable season.

[RELATED: Key dates for Raiders' 'Hard Knocks'-centric preseason]

Ferrell’s going to work hard every day. He doesn’t have a large injury history. He should be reliable. He should get into the backfield; whether he can get home is another matter. Mack didn’t do it much his first year.

Expect an adjustment period as he moves to the NFL, but his presence should be felt in all facets of this Raiders defense. He seems qualified to shut out noise and outside expectation from being the No. 4 overall pick. That should help him produce a solid, rookie year with hope for better down the line.

Lamarcus Joyner embracing Raiders leadership role, return to slot

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AP

Lamarcus Joyner embracing Raiders leadership role, return to slot

Lamarcus Joyner sits atop the Raiders depth chart at free safety. He has not played the position even once since training camp began.

Joyner is the Raiders slot cornerback. He can do so much more, but the Raiders have him locked on that one vital position, which doesn’t fit neatly into a standard NFL depth chart.

He might not have many “starts” to his credit, but Joyner doesn’t care about any of that. He loves his Raiders role and is fine not rotating between safety and the slot these days. Karl Joseph and Johnathan Abram seem secure in the back, which allows Joyner to do what he loves most.

“That fits my persona,” Joyner said on this week’s Raiders Insider Podcast. “To take me away from the slot and put me in the post, that’s not doing any justice. I think I play the ball well, the run well. I can cover. I can run and hit. All of those things are great. Being in the slot, I can flash all of my abilities from that position.”

Joyner has great respect for the position, one finally getting its due as a spot far different from outside cornerback. It’s a hybrid position with run responsibilities and a two-way go, with a sideline to reign in receivers. Joyner loves the challenge, the difficulty that it brings.

“To me, it’s the hardest position on the field because of the responsibilities you have,” Joyner said. “There are different rules in the run game and the passing game. It’s just a tough position. For me, I don’t look at myself as a nickel back or a cornerback or a safety. I’m a defensive back, so if Coach needs me to do something else in a game, it’s a great weapon for the organization to have.”

As you’ve read, Joyner isn’t lacking confidence. The 28-year old should after five solid season with the Rams, the last one played on a franchise tag.

It was also spent at free safety, a disappointing turn that somewhat sullied a run to the Super Bowl.

“It was a lonely, boring season,” Joyner said. “I didn’t really get to enjoy 2018 as much, just as a post player. Nickel was my inclination. That’s my natural position. Free safety is something I can do. I can even play the outside, but nickel is where my heart is. That’s when you can see the passion and the laughter and the joy.”

The laughter, passion and joy Joyner’s playing with this preseason has made him the secondary’s resident advisor, an older (but not old) veteran watching over a predominantly young crew. Joyner hasn’t always been counted on for such vocal leadership, but it’s a role he’s welcoming.

“I’m big on watching National Geographic, watching how the wolf works in the pack, and how one lion takes control in the pride,” Joyner said. “When you’ve been to the playoffs or the Super Bowl or just have a history of making plays, people gravitate toward that. I’m a guy people have watched in college. When you have those accolades and you go about your business the right way and you’re a true pro, which gives you a leadership role. I have been embracing that here. It has been an honor to work with some of these guys, who always looked up to me.”

Joyner as made it clear he didn’t sign a four-year contract to be a role model. He came to play.

“I embrace the leadership role, but I also let it be known, to Coach Gruden and Mike Mayock, that I’m not old,” Joyner said. “I’m 28 and I still move like I’m 19. I just have to throw that out there because the older you get, the closer you are to getting thrown out that door. I let them know that I’m not old. I have a lot of experience and wisdom, but I can still get after it.”

Fantasy football rankings 2019: Top 10 QB-receiver stacks to draft

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USATSI/NBC Sports Bay Area

Fantasy football rankings 2019: Top 10 QB-receiver stacks to draft

Drafting a quarterback and a skill-position player from the same team can be a tricky proposition in fantasy football.

If that team goes off for 42 points, you'll likely make out like a bandit with double the points. But if that team is held in check, you're in trouble.

The other downside to having two top players from one team on your fantasy football roster is that you have to fill two important spots on the same bye week.

But having one of these quarterback-wide receiver stacks could pay off big time for you during the 2019 season.

Drew Brees and Mike Thomas, Saints

Despite throwing for under 4,000 yards for the first time since 2005, we still expect Brees to play well in his age-40 season.

Thomas caught more passes (125) than anyone last season. He's a ball magnet, and without a strong No. 2 receiver, Thomas should still see a high number of targets from Brees.

Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, Falcons

Ryan and Jones are two seasons removed from reaching the Super Bowl. They combine to make one of the most dynamic young duos in the league.

Last season, Jones caught 113 passes from Ryan for an NFL-best 1,677 yards. The emergence of Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley could take some targets away from Jones, but he will still put up monster numbers no matter who's on the field with him.

Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill, Chiefs

This duo possibly has the most upside of any on this list. Both are young and have yet to reach their potential.

Mahomes is the reigning league MVP, while Hill avoided a major suspension at the hands of the NFL following an incident involving his child.

Hill caught just 87 passes last season, but turned that into 1,479 yards and 12 touchdowns. He's a big-play machine and as explosive as any player in the league. If he's on the field, expect big things.

DeShaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, Texans

If you polled experts and asked them to pick the best wide receiver in football, a good number of them would pick Hopkins. Last season, he caught 115 passes for 1,572 yards.

Watson finally was able to play an entire season and showed what he's capable of by throwing for 4,165 yards. But he's still got room to improve. Expect big things from Watson and Hopkins this season.

Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr., Browns

This is the biggest wild card of the group. We all know what OBJ is capable of. When he was motivated in New York, he was a monster.

Mayfield had a good rookie season, and most experts expect him to take the next step this season. With two legitimate options in Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, Mayfield should put up huge numbers.

Aaron Rodgers and DeVante Adams, Packers

The Packers made a big change at head coach, replacing Mike McCarthy with Matt LaFleur, and they are hoping it pays off with Rodgers and Adams.

Last season, the duo connected on 111 passes for 1,386 yards. Green Bay will need more of the same in order to get back to the playoffs.

Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen, Vikings

Thielen has been one of the biggest surprise stars over the last three seasons. Last year, he caught 113 of the 153 balls thrown to him for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns.

Surprisingly, Cousins finished with the second-best completion percentage (70.1) in the league last season.

Derek Carr and Antonio Brown, Raiders

A lot of "ifs" surround this duo.

If Brown's frostbitten feet heal and if he can find a helmet he likes, he should continue to be a dominant, game-changing force.

If Carr can regain his former from 2016 when he threw 28 touchdowns and just six interceptions, the Raiders should bounce back from a disappointing 4-12 season.

Carr and Brown have the chance to be an electric combo, but they must perform to the best of their abilities.

Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, Cowboys

Cooper's disappointing 2018 season turned around when the Raiders traded him to the Cowboys. In nine games with Dallas, the former first-round draft pick caught 53 passes for 725 yards and one touchdown.

Prescott might not get the massive contract he's looking for, but in a full season with Cooper, he should put up big numbers. That will certainly help his case for a payday.

Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers

With Antonio Brown out of the picture, Smith-Schuster becomes the No. 1 target for Big Ben, so you can expect numbers similar to his 111 receptions and 1,426 receiving yards from last season.

Roethlisberger led the NFL with 5,129 passing yards, but that was obviously boosted by Brown. Without the All-Pro, defenses could double-team Smith-Schuster and limit his impact.

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