The 49ers have specific prototypes at each position. They do a fantastic job of identifying where a player excels. Along the defensive line, the Niners want a player with superb get-off, athleticism to run their multiple games upfront, while they have just enough power to hold up against the run.
Enter, Clelin Ferrell. It’s been a disappointing start for the former No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. In four seasons with the Raiders, Sports Info Solutions charged Ferrell for having ten total sacks with 28 tackles for loss. For most top-five picks, that’s a season or a season and a half.
In defense of Ferrell, it’s on the Raiders for selecting him that high. When your calling card is your wingspan and hand size, it’s an organizational issue to select a player so high.
Ferrell’s statistical profile out of Clemson was impressive. He finished his career with 27 sacks and 50 tackles for loss. But anybody who really dug into his film never came away thinking, “this player deserves to go in the top-10 of the draft.”
Most draft rankings at the time had Ferrell as the fifth-rated edge rusher behind Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, Brian Burns, and Chase Winovich.
A Twitter search of Ferrell’s name will bring up more times of him on the inactive list than a highlight.
Experience: 4 accrued seasons
Weight: 260 lbs.
Ferrell is on a one-year “prove-it” deal with a base salary of $1,160,000. He was guaranteed $580,000, and has a per game roster bonus of $680,000. Ferrell’s cap number in 2023 is $2.46 million, and is costing 1.04 percent of the 49ers cap.
How he can improve in 2023
Well...availability will be critical. Statistically, there’s only one way to go. But being on the field will go a long way. It’s not fair to expect fifth-round rookie Robert Beal Jr. to be ready to play meaningful snaps from Day 1. You could say the same about Austin Bryant, or even Drake Jackson for that matter. Even though his contract doesn’t reflect it, the Niners are expecting contributions from Ferrell this season.
It’d be disappointing if Ferrell found himself on the inactive list or fell victim to the injury bug. Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek can’t help his new project if he’s not on the field.
So, how can Ferrell improve? By playing.
What to expect in 2023
A Charles Omenihu-ish role suits Ferrell well. Omenihu is a tier higher on the athletic scale than Ferrell, but their body types are similar. Clelin has the go-go gadget arms that give interior lineman trouble. We can anticipate seeing him line up inside early and often.
Ferrell did notch 22 pressures last season playing alongside Maxx Crosby. He was somewhat streaky, as most of those came in bunches. And while consistency is necessary, the 49ers will take a season where Ferrell has 22 pressures.
When you’re playing on a defensive line with Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Javon Hargrave, the 1-on-1 opportunities are endless. The hope for Ferrell should be to come along slowly while he masters the role Omenihu had. If he gives the 49ers 75 percent of what Omenihu did last year, this will be a home run signing.