A positive spin on the newest 49ers edge rusher
The 49ers made their second new addition along the defensive line with their signing of Clelin Ferrell on Wednesday. With Samson Ebukam and Charles Omenihu departing, the 49ers started filling those spots as they always do with pass rushers: a low-cost, high-upside signing.
With the deal being made official on Thursday, here are three numbers to know about the 25-year-old pass rusher out of Clemson:
Clelin Ferrell was the fourth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, selected by the Raiders just two selections after the 49ers selected Nick Bosa. Ferrell was a potential option for the 49ers at the second pick early in the draft process that year, before Arizona opted for the Kliff Kingsbury/Kyler Murray duo, causing the draft to fall as it did.
Safe to say that Ferrell didn’t meet those first-round expectations with the Raiders, recording only ten sacks in his first four seasons, a number Bosa has hit in each of his last two seasons.
Ferrell saw his snap count decrease from 648 in his rookie season to 461 and 273 in each of the next two before he played 492 snaps in 2022, the most he’s played since his rookie year. Ferrell had the feel of a player entering free agency who needed a fresh start and a system that could improve his play.
Ferrell set a career-high with 30 pressures in 2020. Kris Koucerek and the 49ers’ defense might be the place for Ferrell to develop into that first-round talent the Raiders were looking for. While his 30 pressures in 2020 would have tied for fourth on the 2022 49ers, Ferrell isn’t the first pass rusher the 49ers have taken a low-cost chance on.
Charles Omenihu, Samson Ebukam, and Arden Key were all brought in at low costs – Omenihu was the only one not signed, acquired from Houston for a sixth-round pick – and all of them saw career resurgences with the 49ers.
Charles Omenihu’s career-high in pressures pre-49ers: 32 on 546 snaps (2020)
Omenhiu’s high in pressures with the 49ers: 62 pressures on 659 snaps (2022)
Samson Ebukam’s career-high in pressures pre-49ers: 33 on 793 snaps (2018)
Ebukam’s high in pressures with the 49ers – 50 pressures on 681 snaps (2022)
Arden Key’s career-high in pressures pre-49ers: 31 on 644 snaps (2018)
Key’s high in pressures with the 49ers – 39 pressures on 434 snaps (2021)
Ferrell hopes to continue the trend after signing with the 49ers.
Ferrell finished 2022 with a four percent missed tackle rate, according to Pro Football Focus. He ranked third among the 83 edge rushers and 16th of the 396 defensive players to play a minimum of 450 snaps. Ferrell’s 2022 percentage would have finished tied with Kerry Hyder among the 49ers’ defensive line and 2.7 percent better than Nick Bosa (6.7 missed tackle percentage).
While the 49ers’ defensive line usually features the run stoppers on the interior, the signing of Javon Hargrave indicated a shift in thought. The signing of Ferrell could be an effort to counterbalance by adding a player on the edge who is solid against the run. PFF hasn’t been kind to him the past few seasons – Ferrell finished with run defense grades of 68.4 and 76.6 the first two seasons of his career but grades of 37.3 and 58.2 the last two – but the one constant for Ferrell has been an improved missed tackle percentage.
Ferrell finished his rookie season missing 17.9 percent of his tackles, but that number dropped about four percent each of the two following years, before dropping six percent from 2021 to 2022. The trend is apparent, but is the new career low the new constant or an outlier?