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Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

5 things to know about new 49ers DL Clelin Ferrell

Mar 15, 2023 at 2:30 PM--

Clelin Ferrell became the latest addition to the San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday, agreeing to terms to a one-year contract shortly before the official start of NFL free agency at 4 p.m. ET.

Ferrell (6-4, 265) comes to the 49ers after four seasons with the Raiders, who selected him with the fourth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Ferrell's time with the Raiders was disappointing based on what was expected from him coming into the NFL, but he'll now have a chance to become the latest in a line of defensive linemen who were able to jumpstart their career with a stint in San Francisco.

Here are some things to know about Ferrell as he makes his way to the Bay Area.

The Raiders drafted him too high

Do a quick dive into Ferrell's time with the Raiders via Google and you'll find two common sentiments: He was drafted too high, and it's not his fault the Raiders drafted him where they did. Ferrell was the second edge prospect selected in the 2019 NFL Draft behind 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa, but he was expected to be drafted much later in the first round, possibly even in the early second round.

There have been conflicting reports regarding who was more responsible for the selection of Ferrell between former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and former general manager Mike Mayock. But at the time, Mayock said the Raiders were sold on Ferrell regardless of how far he could have fallen.

"At the end of the day, people act like the thought wouldn't occur to me to trade down and still get Cle(lin)," Mayock said, per "He was our guy, OK? And whether we got him at 4, 8, 10, it didn't matter. He was gonna be our guy."

A number of edge prospects picked after Ferrell have had better careers to this point, most notably the Raiders' 2019 fourth-round pick, Maxx Crosby. But Ferrell, who turns 26 in May, still has plenty of football ahead of him. If all goes well, he'll follow in the footsteps of Arden Key, who was another once highly-touted former Raiders pass rusher the 49ers were able to revitalize.

An up-and-down (mostly down) start to his career

Ferrell played 58 games with the Raiders, with starts in his first 26. But over the past two seasons, Ferrell started just four games out of the 32 he played. He totaled 10 sacks and 105 tackles in his time with the Raiders, with 32 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, and 15 tackles for loss.

Ferrell certainly didn't live up to expectations in terms of his pass rushing production, but he drew some praise for his run defense. Ferrell was rated as the No. 32 edge defender in the NFL entering the 2021 season by Pro Football Focus, who added that Ferrell was trending at the time in the opposite direction of teammate Maxx Crosby. That trend didn't last long, however, with Crosby since emerging as an All-Pro-caliber player.

Ferrell played 62 percent of the team's defensive snaps in 2019, then saw that number drop to 42.33 percent in 2020 due in part to an absence caused by COVID-19. His defensive snaps went down even further in 2021 as the Raiders shifted defensive coordinators from Paul Guenther to Gus Bradley, then there was hope he would find a bigger role in 2022 under new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. His snaps increased to 43.83 percent under Graham, but he didn't show enough to make the Raiders want to bring him back for a second contract.

A star at Clemson

While Ferrell hasn't lived up to his potential in the NFL, he was certainly able to shine during his college days at Clemson. Ferrell rebounded from a torn ACL that cost him his senior season at Benedictine College Prep in Richmond, Virginia, as well as a hand injury that sidelined him for much of his true freshman season at Clemson to become a first-team all-conference player and a first-team All-American. Ferrell had 166 tackles, 50.5 tackles for loss and 27 sacks at Clemson and was selected as the 2018 winner of the Ted Hendricks Award (given annually to the top defensive end in college football) after totaling 55 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.

Ferrell declared for the NFL Draft after the 2018 season, which was his redshirt junior season in eligibility. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Ferrell put up 25 bench press reps of 225 pounds with a 7.26-second 3-cone drill and a 4.4-second 20-yard shuttle.

"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," wrote analyst Lance Zierlein in 2019. "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."

Honoring his late father

Ferrell could have gone pro after his redshirt sophomore season in 2017. But he chose to return to Clemson, in part to honor his father Cleavester, who died of cancer when Ferrell was a high school freshman.

"Me graduating from college, that would be huge for him," Ferrell said, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "His dad pulled him out of school to work on the farm. That's when school became really, really big for him. He really tried to push that emphasis on me."

Ferrell's father was a Vietnam veteran and was described by Ferrell in 2022 as a model American.

"He was the head of our family," Ferrell told "He was someone who was the ultimate role model as far as being a father, someone who was the ultimate man in his community, regardless of whether the community was good or bad. He's someone that I feel like is a true definition of what an American should want to be.

"The main thing that I learned from him was that you have to be accountable. And my father was someone who never made excuses for whatever mistakes he made. That's one thing that's kind of helped me as a man. Like, I'm not a big excuse maker, not someone that's pouting them, not someone that's going to try to put the blame on others."

Military roots

Ferrell comes from a family full of veterans, most notably his father as well as his mother.

"When she was 18, went straight into the army," Ferrell told "She fought in Desert Storm. My mom's sister, she went into the military, too, was in the air Force. They just made that sacrifice and made that decision that they want to be a part of something that's bigger than them to where they will always have a lasting effect on society in history."

That military influence didn't always rub off on Ferrell at first. He had somewhat of a rebellious streak in him when he was younger, which his parents responded to by sending him to an all-male military academy in Benedictine Prep. That, combined with the passing of his father, caused Ferrell to mature.

"I went through that phase where I thought I was a cool kid. I didn't want to be that uptight kid who was a mommy's and daddy's boy," Ferrell said in 2016, via the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier. "I grew out of that once I got to high school, because my high school definitely turned me into more of a man."

Ferrell went on to become an All-State player as a junior before his season-ending injury as a senior and was rated by recruiting services as a top 150 prospect nationally.

"Eventually, I became a very good student, a very good person, and a role model," Ferrell said.
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