After his redshirt freshman season in 2016, many were thinking that Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell surely would be a top-five selection whenever he decided to enter the NFL draft.
Ferrell showed explosive speed and burst coming off the edge, and looked as if he would become a dominating pass rusher. Because he only was a redshirt sophomore in 2017, we expected to see an even more explosive player last season. Though Ferrell had a strong year with 66 total tackles and 10 sacks, I didn’t see what I had hoped for.
Ferrell is listed as being 6050 – 260. Last season, though, he looked to be much heavier than 260, and because of that, I didn’t see the speed I saw in 2016. When we saw Ferrell run in pursuit last season, we didn't see him gaining on opponents. There were some plays I saw in which quarterbacks with average speed outran him — I don’t think he would've cracked 4.8 in the 40 in 2017. We will see if his play speed improves in 2018.
On run plays, Ferrell shows quick reactions and good instincts. His initial quickness and first step are good, helping him get penetration. He has strength and power at the point of attack and does a good job taking on and shedding blocks. He has quick hands and keeps blockers off his body. Ferrell is a very good competitor and plays hard on every down. He isn’t a speedster to run plays down, but he chases in pursuit and consistently takes good angles to the ball.
As a pass rusher, Ferrell is good, but not great. He gets off the ball quickly but is not explosive, and he lacks the ability to dip under his opponents when coming off the edge. He has some moves, and can counter back to the inside as well as bull rush. We also see a spin move at times. When compared to Bradley Chubb, whom the Denver Broncos selected fifth overall in April, Ferrell doesn’t have anywhere near the burst or overall explosiveness.
This season will be very important for Ferrell, currently a solid prospect who is set to go fairly high in the draft, but what's his best NFL position? He strictly aligns on the right side at Clemson, and does play on his feet and drop into coverage at times. If he shows the same athleticism in 2018 as he showed in 2017, I can’t see him playing on the right side in the NFL. He will either be a left end in a 4-3, or some teams might even move him inside to a 3-technique. He looks to have the frame to carry 280-285 pounds, and if that is the case, he might be able to become a dominant 3-technique instead of just a good left end.
There have been cases like that in the past, where a college edge player gets moved inside once he gets to the NFL. In this past draft, the Indianapolis Colts drafted Ohio State's Tyquan Lewis with the thought of moving him inside. When I was with the Bears, we moved Henry Melton — an an edge player at Texas — to the 3-tech, and the result was a Pro Bowl inside player. The comps are there for Ferrell.
Before that can happen, we have to see how Ferrell plays in 2018 and what his verified measurables are at the Combine. That's when we can begin to determine his best position at the next level.