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A surprise? Raiders go with Clelin Ferrell No. 4 in NFL Draft. Here’s why it makes sense

FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2018, file photo, Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell (99) rushes into the backfield during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia Southern, in Clemson, S.C. Ferrell was selected fourth overall.
FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2018, file photo, Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell (99) rushes into the backfield during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia Southern, in Clemson, S.C. Ferrell was selected fourth overall. AP

The Oakland Raiders made a surprising pick at No. 4 in the NFL Draft, selecting defensive end Clelin Ferrell on Thursday.

The Raiders, in their first draft with general manager Mike Mayock working with coach Jon Gruden, finished the first round selecting Alabama running back Josh Jacobs at No. 24 and Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram at No. 27.

The Ferrell pick was a surprise to many. Most mock drafts had Ferrell going in the mid-to-late first round.

Why is Ferrell a good fit for the Raiders?

He helps the Raiders fill a big void after Oakland traded away star pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears before the start of the 2018 season. Ferrell can get after the quarterback like he did in college at national-champion Clemson.

“It’s not even just about replacing a great player like Mack,” Ferrell said. “It’s about all the legends that have played there. There’s such a great tradition to play for the Raiders. You all don’t even know, I’m an NFL historian type with the Howie Long’s and Ted Hendrick’s. I can’t remember the really crazy guy who was known for being a dirty player, but it’s such a great history of great players for the Raiders.”

Last season, the Raiders finished last in the NFL in sacks with just 13. Mack finished with 12.5 sacks. Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst led the Raiders with just four sacks. Oh, by the way, the Bears’ 50 sacks as a team was just third-best in the NFL.

According to Next Gen Stats, Ferrell was among the top edge defenders available in the draft along with Josh Allen, Montez Sweat, Nick Bosa, Brian Burns and Ben Banogu. Ferrell was the second player from that group to be picked. (Bosa went No. 2 to the San Francisco 49ers.)

Ferrell brings a versatile game that can immediately help the Raiders.

He is listed at 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, and finished with 11.5 sacks last season.

Ferrell wasn’t on the stage in Nashville, Tenn. Mayock made the call to Ferrell that was caught by Raiders.com.

“There’s one obligation you have with this pick. You hear me? And that’s leadership. You promise me?” Mayock asked.

“I promise you with all I got,” Ferrell said.

“Leadership. That’s why you’re coming here,” Mayock said.

“I promise you. I promise you,” Ferrell said.

Ferrell then had a conversation with defensive line coach Brentson Buckner.

“I’m not going to let you down,” Ferrell said.

“I know you ain’t and that’s why we’re going to work,” Buckner told Ferrell.

“I’m going to give you everything I got, man. Everything I got, I’m telling you,” Ferrell said.

When the Raiders had the fourth overall pick in the past, Oakland went with offense: wide receiver Amari Cooper in 2015 and running back Darren McFadden in 2008.

Not this time.

“We’re excited,” Mayock said. “We talked about foundation players. Jon and I talked about that since the first day I got here. Talent and character and that’s what drove this draft. We got the guys we wanted. I’m proud of the work we did. They all love the game.”

Said Gruden: “We like our three draft choices. I’m really happy with our offseason program getting to know (Antonio) Brown, (Tyrell) Williams, Ryan Grant, Trent Brown and our second-year players coming back working hard. To add three more men to the group we assembled is exciting.”

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Anthony Galaviz writes about sports for The Fresno Bee. He covers the Oakland Raiders, high schools, boxing, MMA and junior colleges. He’s been with The Bee since 1997 and attended Fresno City College before graduating from Fresno State with a major in journalism and a minor in criminology.
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