NFL draft profile: Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell

Five questions for the former Tigers pass rusher.
Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell (99) works against Notre Dame offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg (74) during the NCAA Cotton Bowl semi-final playoff football game, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)
Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell (99) works against Notre Dame offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg (74) during the NCAA Cotton Bowl semi-final playoff football game, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)
Published April 16

TAMPA — Clelin Ferrell has everything you would want in a young edge pass rusher. Good size at 6-foot-4, 262 pounds with long arms that stretch more than 34 inches. He also has a quick first step off the football. The first-team all-ACC selection also was highly effective at Clemson, which has produced a good defensive lineman or two.

Ferrell improved each season for the Tigers and last year totaled 53 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in helping Clemson win the national championship. Only 21, Ferrell has a long and promising career ahead in the NFL as a first-round pick.

The only question is where does he rank with so much first-round defensive line talent, including his teammate, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins?

What the Bucs are thinking

At No. 5, the Bucs should get a better player than Ferrell. Because the draft is loaded with defensive talent, players such as Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, Kentucky’s Josh Allen, Houston’s Ed Oliver and perhaps Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat may all go ahead of Ferrell.

However, should the Bucs get an offer they can’t refuse to trade down to somewhere in the middle of the first round, maybe Ferrell would be in play. Ferrell has spent significant time with the Bucs during the draft process.

Five questions for Clelin Ferrell

How did having so much talent around at Clemson prepare you?

“It was huge because obviously we push each other to a level that I can’t really explain in words. It was truly a blessing to go through it with those guys because there’s some things we did off the field that really prepared us and made us better as far as our careers. And also, just the aspect of there’s not a lot of plays to go around out there when you’re playing with guys like that. It really taught me the mentality of not taking any plays off, of learning to really push and fight every single play because if you want to have an impact, you’ve got to scratch and claw with my brothers out there. So it was really, really good. We made it a competition for sure."

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It’s a very deep class of edge players; what is it about your game that you think could set you apart?

“I just feel like my versatility is something that is very, very important when I feel like you talk about my game. I feel like that has always given me an edge as far as giving me a benefit on the field. Not only just my versatility as a player — I can play defensive end, I played some defensive tackle this past year, 3 technique. I’ve also dropped into coverage, outside linebacker. But not only just doing those things, but I feel like I’ve done them at consistently a high level. That’s always given me a bit of confidence as far as my play. And I’ve done it against the best competition playing at Clemson, so that was a blessing as well.”

With so many Clemson D-linemen at the combine, do you pay attention to what happens to the other guys in terms of the draft?

“Nah, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t pay attention to where everybody says I’m going to go. It doesn’t really matter. I know what my guys are capable of. And the same when we were at Clemson, people doubted us, people doubted what they feel like our ability as a team and me and these other players could do, I just know what those things are something that we can’t control. So I really can’t focus on that. You really have no idea until draft day.”

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What was it like growing up with military parents?

“That was something that was a gift and a curse for me. My mom, she served in Desert Storm. My father was in Vietnam; he passed away when I was 13. And that was really, really big for me because they loved the aspect of just integrity. They always demanded that I did the right things, went about my business the right way and did it in a manner where it was respectful. They were really big on not hanging around the wrong people. They always talked to me about making sure that I keep the right company. So it was just a lot of different things that they drew from the military and brought into my life.”

What does it feel like to be part of such a great D-line draft class?

“It means the world. Obviously there’s a lot of great players here, a lot of great players on the defensive line. For me, I’m just happy to be considered one of them. That’s all that really matters. I obviously have to set high expectations for myself, but I can’t get caught up in everything that comes with it. I kind of experienced the same thing at Clemson. People were trying to call the greatest defensive line ever in the history of college football — and I think that we are — but that was something I had to think about after the season. That’s not something you want to focus on right now because if you take your mind away from what’s important — that’s showcasing your talents out here and focusing on the interview process.”