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Despite Clelin Ferrell’s slow start, Coach Gruden defends the fourth overall pick, ‘He’s done a lot more than just have one sack’

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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Anytime a team selects a prospect with the fourth overall pick in the draft, you are expecting an instant impact. Going into the draft the Raiders biggest need was at edge rusher.

Clelin Ferrell was the man Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock decided was their choice at pick four to help improve that pass rush. The pick was received with some speculation from fans and draft pundits alike. Heading into week eight, Ferrell has only one sack.

While meeting with the media during his usual Wednesday time slot, Jon Gruden was asked about what the team has gotten out of Ferrell.

“Well if you watch the tape, you know he’s not playing defensive end very much,” said Gruden. “He’s playing inside more than outside. Part of that is out of necessity, we hope at some point to get him some more snaps at defensive end. But he’s doing pretty good, he’s a good run defender, hopefully we can get him some more at bats rushing the passer. But I know a lot of the statisticians are just looking for sacks but he’s done a lot more than just have one sack.”

Gruden mentioned having to play Ferrell on the inside during passing situations out of necessity. The first thing that came to mind was, with the trade deadline approaching, would be to acquire a guy who can rush from the inside that would allow Ferrell to do so from the outside. A la Leonard Williams. That’s a topic for another day.

It’s fair to say many knew they were not getting a 12-15 sack a season type of guy in Ferrell. He was advertised as a well rounded edge player, with great leadership qualities, high character, and a winning pedigree.

Those are all great qualities but this defense is desperate for someone who can disrupt offenses coming off the edge. According to Pro Football Focus, of the 32 names called in round one of the draft there are only seven players who have received a lower grade than Ferrell (46.8). Two of those players include Dwayne Haskins who played in one game and Johnathan Abram who also played in one game.

Through seven weeks, he’s won just 6.5% of his 139 pass-rush matchups, a figure that ranks 67th among 69 qualifying edge defenders. (Pro Football Focus)

In comparison, Jacksonville’s Josh Allen (63.6), Carolina’s Brian Burns (71.3), and Washington’s Montez Sweat (63.5) all were drafted after Ferrell, all have graded out higher, and have been more productive. Allen has five sacks, Burns has four and half, and Sweat has two.

Ferrell will forever be linked to these other pass rushers and until he begins to play like a top five pick the Raiders will continue to hear some criticisms of the selection.

Let’s keep in mind Khalil Mack who was also a top five pick finished his rookie season with only four sacks. It’s far too early to call Ferrell a bust, but the concerns are legitimate.