Some draft analysts were surprised when the Las Vegas Raiders selected Clelin Ferrell with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
The former Clemson standout was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year as a junior in 2018 and finished his three-year career with 166 tackles and 27 sacks.
As a rookie, Ferrell played in 15 games and finished the season with 34 tackles and 4.5 sacks. In an interview with Scott Bair and NBC Sports, Ferrell talked about his first year and his expectations for 2020.
“It was a large learning experience that was mainly a lot of fun," Ferrell said of his rookie year. "There were ups and downs, good times and bad times, but the main thing was learning to push through obstacles during the entire season. That was something I enjoyed learning how to do, and it showed me I need to grow up in a few areas.”
Ferrell's 4.5 sacks ranked eighth among rookies in 2019. He missed two games against Chicago and Green Bay after suffering a concussion, then becoming sick. His illness led to a 15-pounddfsaa weight loss.
“I had never missed a game due to an illness, but that was terrible,” Ferrell said. “I was going to try to play through it. I thought rest would do it, but it really sat me down. That was tough because it didn’t just affect me for that game. It stuck with me for upcoming games because I lost so much weight. It was a test and a learning experience for sure.”
“I’m excited for the offseason because when I come back, it’s going to be [as] a completely different player,” Ferrell said. “You probably won’t even recognize me. Seriously. I’m excited.”
In an offseason interview, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden called Ferrell's first year "so-so."
“We asked him to do way too much early in this season. We had him playing inside quite a bit, he didn’t do a lot of that at Clemson," Gruden said. "So, I think next year when he becomes more of a full-time defensive end acclimated to the scheme better, I think he’ll show even more and more improvement.”
According to Vic Tafur of TheAthletic.com, Ferrell has added 13 pounds during an offseason regimen in Miami, getting up to 275 pounds.
“It’s about building on everything,” Ferrell said. “I know what I have to work on. I talked to the coaches. I know what I have to improve on. I also want to get guys around to buy into that mindset, too. I hope guys on the team understand that the group of guys we have is special. Our future is bright. If we work out together, we should come back a whole different breed.”
The Raiders finished its last season in Oakland with a 7-9 record. They make the move to Las Vegas for the 2020 season, but face an uphill battle in their division with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
“We did better and we improved over last year, but it still wasn’t good enough,” Ferrell said. “As a defensive line, we made significant strides in sacks and run defense. We were better but are nowhere close to our potential. I hope that guys see that. I’m going to be sure that guys see that we have to get better and take it to the league next year.”