Born: May 17th, 1997 (21 years old)
Weight: 265 Lbs
Position: Defensive End
Clemson has become a defensive lineman factory, but this year’s group is truly legendary. One of the true leaders of that defensive line was Clelin Ferrell, and he was one of the nations best defenders in 2018. Alongside other soon-to-be NFL rookies Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins, and Austin Bryant, Ferrell was still able to wrangle 11.5 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss last season. Ferrell would go on to win ACC Defensive Player of the Year, the Ted Hendricks award, and become a back to back First Team All-American selection.
Strengths & Weaknesses
There is a lot to like when watching Ferrell’s tape, but the first thing I saw was how technically sound he is. You will be drafting probably the smartest defensive end in this class with Ferrell, as you can see him break down screen passes, and set the edge even when plays are away from him. This all helps him be a good but not great run defender. Consistently sets his hands to find the ball, then rips away his defender. I have seen him successfully use a bull rush, swim moves, and spin moves while rushing the passer.
There are a lot of freak athletes in this draft, but Ferrell is one of the few that rallies more on fundamentals than his athleticism. He is by no means slow, but won’t be anywhere near the top of the 40 yard dash times. I have seen teams like to target his side for screen passes due to his eagerness to rush the passer. Also not a weakness, but important to note, that he suffered a torn ACL his senior year of high school.
NFL Draft Projection/NFL Comp
NFL Draft Projection
Since this draft class is so deep across the defensive line, I wouldn’t be surprised if Clelin seemingly falls within the 12th-16th picks in the draft. The Dolphins need a replacement at both ends of the defensive line, and could opt to skip out on drafting a quarterback this year. If the Dolphins could take him with the 13th pick, they could look to cut Robert Quinn and save nearly $13 million this year.
I read a story about Clelin wearing the number 99 because of Aldon Smith, which you can read here. I believe Ferrell actually compares well to his favorite pass rusher. Especially when Clemson switches to their 3-4 front, and Ferrell rushes from the standing position. They both do a great job at slapping the hands of their defender to push inside towards the quarterback. Smith wasn’t the fastest player on the field, but still managed to be one of the most dominant. Though he projects as a 4-3 defensive end, I can’t help but see the resemblance.