ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Mike Mayock pulled off a bit of a shocker with his first pick as an NFL general manager that even surprised the player he selected.
The Oakland Raiders used the fourth pick in the draft on Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell on Thursday night, passing up other pass rushers rated higher by analysts in the team’s quest to find a replacement for Khalil Mack.
“There were flashier players, players that other people may have had higher on their boards, teams may have had higher on their boards,” Mayock said. “On our board, it was he and (No. 2 pick Nick) Bosa at that position, right next to each other at that position. We knew he’d probably be there. Everybody else had all the big names up there. … He checked all the boxes. He’s going to be a three-down player. He’s 267 pounds, he’s a captain, he’s one of the best leaders.”
Ferrell said he knew the Raiders liked him but didn’t know if they would use the first of three first-round selections to take him. Many analysts had players like Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen and Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver rated higher than Ferrell but Mayock and coach Jon Gruden went a different direction.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t surprised,” Ferrell said. “This was a really, really long process for me. I don’t pay attention to the mock drafts. Those things are stupid. Just talking to my agent, we didn’t know what to expect going in. But me personally, I always felt like I was going to be a Raider. I had such a good relationship and good meetings with the Raiders. It was just a great process.”
The Raiders then used the 24th overall pick acquired in the deal that sent Mack to Chicago to take Alabama running back Josh Jacobs to replace Marshawn Lynch, who isn’t expected to return this season. Oakland then took Mississippi State safety Jonathan Abram with the 27th pick acquired from Dallas for receiver Amari Cooper.
The Raiders became the fifth team this century to make three first-round picks in the same draft, with the Giants also making three first-round picks this year.
“We’re building our team and we need building blocks,” Gruden said. “We had some in place. But we needed these guys to come in and inherit that responsibility.”
The Raiders’ most glaring need was at edge rusher after trading Mack last year to Chicago for a package that included two first-round picks. Oakland finished last in the NFL with 13 sacks in 2019, 17 fewer than the next worst team. Their 95 total pressures, according to SportRadar, also ranked last — 29 fewer than 31st place Tampa Bay.
Ferrell had 11 1/2 sacks last season for the national champion Tigers and finished with 27 sacks in 84 career games. He also had 59 quarterback pressures, according to Sports Info Solutions.
Oakland has been busy this offseason, adding receivers Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, tackle Trent Brown and several potential starters in the back seven on defense. But they have little in place at edge rusher with Arden Key and Benson Mayowa the top players currently on the roster. Key had just one sack as a rookie, while Mayowa has 13 sacks in 72 career games.
Jacobs was the first running back or receiver taken in the draft despite being only a part-time player in college at Alabama. He had double-digit carries just seven times in his career and ran for 100 yards only once as he shared time with Damien Harris and Najee Harris.
Jacobs finished his career with 251 carries for 1,491 yards (5.9 per carry) and had 48 catches for 571 yards. He joins a backfield with Isaiah Crowell, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington and Chris Warren III.
“I felt like he was the most complete running back in this draft and I’m glad he’s my teammate and we can go tear the league up together,” said Abram, who played against Jacobs in the SEC.
Abram is a versatile safety capable of playing both in the box or deep. He gives the Raiders insurance if they decide not to pick up the fifth-year option on 2016 first-round safety Karl Joseph, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal.
Abram had two interceptions, three sacks and five passes defensed last season and is the type of hard-hitter that reminds Gruden of former Raiders safeties Jack Tatum and George Atkinson.
“I’m going to try to get him to wear number 32 or 43,” Gruden said, referring to the numbers Tatum and Atkinson wore. “He’s like one of the old-school safeties. He’s a physical, sideline to sideline tackling machine in college. I hope it continues here.”