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Raiders need to disprove notion they reached by taking Ferrell fourth

Updated April 26, 2019 - 1:32 am

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Think of it this way: After she performed a concert at Bridgestone Arena in March, Pink strolled into Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, one of the most legendary honky-tonks in Music City. It was near midnight when the star asked if she could jump on stage and play a few songs.

It was as big a surprise as famed Lower Broadway had seen in some time.

Well, at least until Clelin Ferrell.

I’m not sure why the Raiders felt a need to send their scouts home early as the NFL draft approached, given any leaks about the team selecting the Clemson defensive end with the fourth pick overall would have absolutely been met with a dose of skepticism the size of the Cumberland River.

And that baby runs for 688 miles and drains almost 18,000 square miles of southern Kentucky and north-central Tennessee.

I suppose as social media doubt goes, the Raiders should be happy that, two picks after they selected Ferrell on Thursday night, the Giants took Duke quarterback Daniel Jones. Then folks seemed to forget about what the Raiders did.

Which, by the way, was pretty darn Raiders and Jon Gruden of them.

Said one snarky tweet of the pick: Wilt Chamberlain didn’t have a reach like that.

You can’t fault a team that managed 13 sacks all last season after trading away the league’s best edge rusher in Khalil Mack for taking a defensive end, and it’s not like Ferrell fell into 27 career sacks for one of the nation’s top college programs.

You don’t become a two-time All-American, Ted Hendricks Award winner as the country’s top defensive end and captain of a national championship team by being late to practice.

Ferrell’s late father fought in Vietnam. His mother saw action in Desert Storm. A brother was stationed in Afghanistan. In all, his parents served a combined 46 years in the U.S. Army.

Just a guess: Clelin is probably going to be as low maintenance a player as the Raiders have.

“They got an unbelievable, committed grinder,” said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, here with two other first-round picks from the Tigers, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence. “I just think the Raiders got it right. Clelin is incredibly committed to excellence in every area of his life. He will be there tomorrow, ready to work. I promise you that.

“One of the easiest, no-doubt guys for the next level I’ve ever been around. He will translate from Day 1. He’s ready.”

That’s obviously what Gruden and new general manager Mike Mayock are hoping for, but was this a head coach reaching on a pick because he’s again convinced his knowledge is superior to others, or could the Raiders have traded down, added some of those second- and third-round picks Mayock reportedly covets and still landed Ferrell?

If he was their guy all along, fine. But they picked him at No. 4, and he wasn’t projected by most anyone among the top 10 selections. Some had him in the late teens and early 20s.

Top five picks in the NFL aren’t granted much latitude, if any, for not performing right away. You need to produce immediately to justify such a draft slot. Ferrell now inherits that role.

Holes to fill

Josh Jacobs went to the Raiders at No. 24 overall and offers one of the more heartwarming stories of the draft, a player from Alabama who was homeless in middle school and slept on his college dorm room floor instead of a bed because it felt more normal. But he’s also a running back — the only one selected in the first round — in a league where the position has been devalued for some time, meaning his need to prove himself better than special becomes even more important.

The team did get a safety at No. 27 in Johnathan Abram from Mississippi State, and anyone who plays defense and hits like him will undoubtedly be a welcome addition to a team that needs both.

When you finish a season 4-12, there are obviously more holes to fill than not. Players don’t prove themselves on draft boards, anyway. They do so on the field. Mocks often end up being, um, mocked.

Reaches have the opportunity to make those who selected them look bad, but they also have a chance to quiet all that social media doubt.

Sometimes, they really surprise you.

Maybe not like Pink strolling into a honky-tonk and jumping onstage for a few songs, but surprise nonetheless.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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