Clelin Ferrell / Red Shirt Sophomore / Edge / 6’5” / 260 lbs. / Clemson
Games Watched: Virginia Tech (2016), Georgia Tech (2016), Ohio State (2016), Auburn (2017)
The Skinny: It would be unfair to compare Ferrell to the likes Jevon Kearse, Dwight Freeney or even Myles Garrett. However, it is incredibly hard to not see the same freakish predatory cat-like skills in this Clemson Tiger. The former four-star weakside defensive end was buried depth chart wise upon his arrival at Clemson. However, with a stacked deck of highly touted athletes, Dabo Sweeney and company did not have to force him onto the field. The result was a redshirt season (although he appeared in one game versus Wofford in 2015) in which Ferrell lifted weights and consumed calories. Ferrell also missed his entire senior season of high school football due to an ACL tear.
He opened the 2016 season as a finely chiseled 260-pound starter (he weighed 220 his senior year of high school). He immediately became a vocal and emotional leader. His tenacity is contagious, and that makes this whole Clemson defensive unit fun to watch.
Ferrell is a strong hands fighter, and he uses his length with calculated precision. He does not overuse the armbar which makes it more effective. Ferrell has a very strong motor and he usually never gives up on a play. He does tend to pop straight up when the ball is snapped. This often happens when he faces stronger competition. This also happens almost exclusively versus left tackles. I do not view it as a sign of laziness or frustration. Rather he is likely trying out as an arsenal of moves to get pressure on the passer.
His light and graceful footwork make it very hard to block him squarely. He floats with horsepower like charge in the open field. His 12.5 TFLs in 2016 speak to his disruptive abilities. He is also able to finesse and maneuver his way around and through blockers. Ferrell can bend and slap with the agility and swiftness. He is absolute missile as a stunter. He can torque his body and explode through people, especially interior lineman.
Fantasy Outlook: Ferrell is an exciting and intriguing player. However, defensive ends are almost never an instant success, just ask Derek Barnett, Myles Garrett, and Solomon Thomas. Even guys like Ziggy Ansah and Vic Beasley took at least a year to find consistent footing in the pros. In his first season as a full-time starter, Ferrell recorded just six sacks. That does not scream dominance. He only has one sack through his first six games this season. Still, Ferrell has skills, if he matures and stays fit, he will ultra-intriguing.
Like with every Edge defender who enters the NFL, Ferrell will need a good scheme fit to hold IDP value. Since his frame is likely maxed out at 255-265 pounds, he will toe that tweener line. In 3-4 schemes, he will almost certainly be an OLB. Much like Matt Judon in Baltimore and Preston Smith in Washington, that may be considered as playing out of position. While their duties are the same 4-3 DE, their LB designation dampens their overall appeal.
The same thing happened to former Clemson alums and stud DEs Kevin Dodd (OLB in Tennessee) and Shaq Lawson (had LB designation in 2016 for Buffalo). So obviously the best case scenario would be for Ferrell to enter the NFL with as a 4-3 DE. If he is officially a DE, you can feel to grab him in the closing rounds of your rookie drafts and stash him on your Taxi Squad for a year.
Landing spots like New England or Cincinnati would likely be the best fits. Playing opposite of Trey Flowers would go a long way for Ferrell’s maturity. In Cincinnati, he could lineup right next to Geno Atkins for a couple of seasons. That type of 4-3 would make Ferrell highly effective since they already have great athletes at OLB in Nick Vigil and Vontaze Burfict. That would allow Ferrell to mainly focus on progressing as a pass rusher and edge setter.