When the Oakland Raiders selected Ferrell with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, it sent shockwaves through the NFL landscape. But to anyone who knows the backstory behind the top pick, it's the reward for an athletic career filled with bad timing and terrible luck.
Attending Benedictine College Preparatory in Richmond, VA, Ferrell was rated as a four-star recruit. 247 Sports had him pegged as the fifth-best prospect in the state and the No. 101 overall prospect in the country. Ferrell's prospect ratings were a testament to his talent as he missed his senior season with a torn ACL. He would commit to play football for the Clemson Tigers and proved to be an invaluable asset for the Tigers defensive line.
Ferrell suffered a hand injury that caused him to be redshirted for his entire freshman campaign at Clemson. However, he quickly showed no rust in his redshirt-freshman season.
In 2016, his first full season as an active member of the Tigers defense, Ferrell amassed six sacks and 44 total tackles (12.5 for a loss). He was also named the 2016 Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP, leading a Tigers defense that shutout the Ohio State University Buckeyes offense.
Ferrell and the Clemson Tigers would go on to win the College Football National Championship, defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide in the final seconds.
Ferrell's next season saw him become a college football All-American as he led the team with 18 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and 66 total tackles. Ferrell continued to showcase his talents in his final season for the Clemson Tigers, earning All-American honors with 11.5 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and 55 total tackles. Ferrell was also named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and helped lead the Tigers to yet another National Championship.
Ferrell also had one of the more memorable post-game interviews, channeling Suge Knight with his "Come to Death Valley" speech.
Heading into the 2019 NFL Draft, analysts believed Ferrell could prove to be an instant starter in the league. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein compared Ferrell to Derrick Morgan and predicted he would be a first round pick in his pre-draft analysis.
Highly productive 4-3 defensive end with prototypical size, length and strength to offer early help against both the run and pass. Playing next to NFL talent in all three years certainly made things easier for Ferrell, but his edge-setting and rush plan improvements are self-made. His rush can be leggy and gradual and might not get home as often in the pros, but NFL coaching might further unleash his physical traits and turn him into a star. Ferrell is a complete defender and steady talent who could start early for a 4-3 stop unit. (via NFL.com)
Due to his outstanding player and leadership skills, the Oakland Raiders selected Ferrell with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Most fans and analysts believed Ferrell was a great player but felt the Raiders reached by picking him so early in the draft.
Raiders GM Mike Mayock defended the team's selection to Sports Illustratedfollowing the NFL Draft.
"He was our guy, OK? And whether we got him at 4, 8, 10, it didn’t matter. He was gonna be our guy... He’s a foundation player. And even more importantly, he’s a three-down defensive end who can stick his hand in the dirt and play on run downs and pass downs. He’s not a guy who’s going to be a designated pass rusher. He’s in there on every snap. And he’s gonna set the tone for us, as far as these young guys are concerned. I couldn’t wait to get to that pick.” (via Fansided)
Ferrell certainly has the qualities to be a top player for the Raiders defensive and should contribute immediately as an every-down player. With ample opportunity and a coaching staff fully supportive of making him great, the sky is the limit for Ferrell heading into his rookie season.