When Clelin Ferrell was 13 years old, he lost his father to cancer.
Before his death, Ferrell's father (Cleavester) made it clear that he wanted his son to graduate from college. So instead of entering the NFL Draft as a junior in 2018, the standout defensive end returned for his senior season at Clemson and had 11 ½ sacks, helping the Tigers win a national championship. He also graduated in December with a degree in sports communication.
That tells you something about Ferrell. He's a finisher, both on and off the field.
"I'm not going to say I'm going to come in and tear the league up, but I know what kind of player I can become," Ferrell said at the Combine. "When I come in I'm going to compete, work hard and try to earn the respect of my team and try to bring a championship wherever I go play."
Ferrell has been linked to the Ravens as a possible first-round pick at No. 22, and the idea makes sense. The Ravens lost Terrell Suggs (Arizona Cardinals) and Za'Darius Smith (Green Bay Packers) in free agency, two players who combined for 15 ½ sacks last season.
This draft is deep in pass rushers with Nick Bosa of Ohio State, Josh Allen of Kentucky, and Montez Sweat of Mississippi State likely to go in the top 15. However, Ferrell could fall into the Ravens' range, and if he does,Todd McShay of ESPN says Baltimore would be a good fit.
"I don't know that he's going to be a top 15-20 pick, but I do think he'll be a first-round pick and I think he'll be a steady, productive player in the league," McShay said during a recent conference call.
Ferrell lists versatility as one of his greatest strengths and scouts agree. In addition to his pass-rushing prowess, at 6-foot-4, 264 pounds, Ferrell was also a solid run defender at Clemson. His skill set translates to either a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive scheme, and he's strong enough to line up inside as well. If they draft Ferrell, the Ravens may use him like they used Smith – lining him to rush the passer from various positions.
Ferrell registered 27 sacks over his final three seasons at Clemson, along with 50 ½ tackles for loss. No doubt, he benefitted from playing with two Clemson defensive tackles also projected to be first-round picks – Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence.
Wilkins and Lawrence made it difficult for Clemson opponents to double-team Ferrell, and he took full advantage. However, watch game tape of Ferrell, and you will see him arrive at the quarterback in a variety of ways.
NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah believes Ferrell is a solid player with the potential to be a double-digit sack artist in the NFL. That sounds like someone who fits one of the Ravens' needs.
"If you want to put a number on it, I don't think he's going to be a 14, 15, 16-sack guy," Jeremiah said during a conference call before the Combine. "But I think he can be a really good 10-12 sack guy who's going to also hold up in the run and not going to have to come off the field. And, to me, that's pretty valuable."