NAPA -- A lot of things come with being a high NFL draft pick.
There is pressure, expectations and responsibility.
When you're a top-five draft pick, all of those things are multiplied.
That's the world Raiders rookie defensive end Clelin Ferrell currently is occupying. Or, rather, should be occupying.
Through the first week of Raiders training camp, much has been made of Ferrell, and fellow rookies Johnathan Abram, Trayvon Mullen and Josh Jacobs, and how they conduct themselves not like, well, rookies.
“I would say that Mike Mayock and Jon (Gruden), they’ve done a great job of drafting because these rookies are actually mature," linebacker Brandon Marshall said. "I've been around a lot of first-round picks, a lot of rookies and they are not as mature, they don’t work as hard, study as hard and they don’t have that same demeanor and mindset as these rookies, so I look at it where I think they can have big years, great years."
So, why has Ferrell come in with a different mentality than most rookies? To the Clemson product, the answer is simple: The Raiders didn't call his name so he could have his hand held on the bench.
"They didn’t bring us in here to be no rookie," Ferrell said. "And I don’t mean it from that sense, I just mean it from rookie can kind of get a connotation of — 'you can sit in the back.' You know, 'wait your turn. You don’t got to step out in front and really show that you want to play.' I consider myself just a first-year player. That’s all that it is.
"But as far as my mindset, I just want to come out and compete and earn everything that we got, and to do that in this defense you got to communicate, be physical, you got to be a guy that wants to set the tone, set the standard and be accountable and do your job."
Ferrell's job will be to improve a Raiders pass rush that got to the quarterback just 13 times last season, leaving the secondary exposed for far too long. During his four-year career in Death Valley, Ferrell showed the explosiveness, strength and violence the Raiders want in a three-down defensive end. In his final three seasons at Clemson, Ferrell recorded 83 solo tackles, 50 1/2 tackles for loss and 27 sacks while helping anchor a defense that terrorized college football en route to two of the past three national titles.
The selection of Ferrell at No. 4 overall certainly raised some eyebrows, but early returns are very positive about the young rusher and his ability to make an immediate impact for the Silver and Black.
"He has good speed and he's strong," left tackle Kolton Miller said. "I think he can hold the edge. I think he'll be an immediate impact on our team."
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther echoed those same sentiments.
"Cle is an every-down end," Guenther said. "He’s exactly what we thought he was."
Early on in camp, Ferrell has shown his quickness and physical hands are just as effective as the pro-level as they were in college. In the Raiders' second non-padded practice, Ferrell beat Miller off the edge a few times, once notching a sack on quarterback Derek Carr, and once forcing him to take off and scramble.
When the pads were put on, Miller appeared to have the upper hand on Ferrell, but it would be unreasonable to expect the "first-year player" to get the best out of a quality NFL tackle like Miller on every down, especially this early in camp.
The Raiders' defense was downright abysmal a season ago, there's really no nice way to put it. The bulk of their struggles came from the hole left by the Khalil Mack trade. The defensive line lacked bodies and talent, and Guenther's unit was shredded as a result.
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Ferrell was brought in because he checked all the boxes that Gruden and Mayock believe are important to take the Raiders where they want to go. Ferrell has immense talent at a position of need. He comes from a winning culture. He's smart, he works hard and, most importantly, he has a belief in himself and a plan of attack that suggests he'll meet and possibly even exceed the expectation set for him.
"I’ve always looked forward to being a complete player," Ferrell said. "I feel like I’m a guy, just from my mentality, I never want to come off the field. Because I want to be the guy that teammates say, ‘I want him on the field with me. I want to be in the trenches with that guy. I want that guy beside me when it’s fourth-and-1 on the goal line and we need to stop them from getting in the end zone.’ It’s just a mindset."
As Carr said early in camp, it's might be too early to know if Ferrell can play football, but the early returns have been impressive. Ferrell, to this point, is exactly who the Raiders thought he would be.