Surely, you haven’t forgotten the dumbfounded and comical look of Raider fans at the NFL Draft when they heard Clelin Ferrell’s name. Billed by pundits as the most complete defensive end in the class, Ferrell — the No. 4 overall pick — has a lot to live up to. The reaction to where the Clemson Tiger stood at 50/50. Some laud Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden for making a sound selection. Others lambast the Raiders for “reaching” for a player that could be had way later in the first round.
In the end, the pick happened. As “Macho Man” Randy Savage so poignantly told “Mean” Gene Okerlund and the WWF-faithful all those years ago: “You may not like it, but accept it.” Ferrell was broached about where he was plucked in the first round in an exclusive 1-on-1 with Bay Area News Group sportswriter Jerry McDonald.
“I don’t say nothing,” Ferrell responded when asked what he says to people who say he was taken too high at 4. “I had that in college, where you hear the talk, good and bad about somebody. But you can never listen to it. The biggest thing is after this season you won’t be able to tell if I was worth the pick whether I have a good or bad year. Come back to me 10 years from now, at the end of my career, and tell me if I was worth it.”
For a beleaguered Raiders pass rush, however, the team can’t wait 10 years. The Silver & Black need immediate impact.
Fortunately, for Ferrell, though, the Raiders historic plunge into the depths of ineptness favors the rookie.
Two words: 13 sacks.
“Hell yeah, that’s motivating,” Ferrell said regarding the paltry sack numbers. “We’re trying to shatter that number. The best part about that is that this group didn’t get 13 sacks last year. It was last year’s group. But this D-line hasn’t proved anything yet, and we’ve got a lot to prove and have set high goals for ourselves.”
Hold it. Let me take that back: It’s not just about the pass rush. The Raiders desperately needs a player who emphatically owns the edge.
That’s what Ferrell must do.
Sack numbers, forced fumbles, tackles — statistical fodder.
The realistic contribution the 6-foot-4, 265-pound end must make remains to set the tone at the edge. Stonewall the run time and time again and give the defensive line opportunities to get after the quarterback. Make the opponent one dimensional to the point where they have no choice but to constantly send the quarterback in harm’s way by dropping back and throwing.
It’s what former Raider — and No. 5 overall pick — Khalil Mack was adept at doing. Savage on run downs and savage on pass downs.
“I’m not Khalil Mack, but Khalil Mack isn’t me. We can’t be each other,” Ferrell said. “ He brings things to the table, and so do I. Respect to a great, great player. A guy I looked up to coming out of high school and college. He’s on a completely different team, and I’m just focused on the Raiders now. So I hope Raiders fans welcome me with open arms.”
But let’s be clear: RaiderNation will embrace it’s No. 4 pick if and when the former Clemson Tiger flashes his claws in the NFL.