A positive spin on the 49ers’ all-new top rusher
The 49ers made their second new addition along the defensive line with their signing of Clelin Ferrell on Wednesday. With the departure of Samson Ebukam and Charles Omenihu, the 49ers began filling those spots as they always do with pass rushers: a low-cost, high-potential signing.
With the deal made official on Thursday, here are three numbers you need to know about Clemson’s 25-year-old passer:
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 as the second pick early in the draft process that year, before Arizona opted for the Kliff Kingsbury/Kyler Murray duo, causing the draft to drop as it did. .
Safe to say that Ferrell fell short of those first-round expectations with the Raiders, recording just ten sacks in his first four seasons, a number Bosa has achieved in each of his last two seasons.
Ferrell saw his snap count go from 648 in his rookie season to 461 and 273 in each of the next two before snapping 492 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 game.
Ferrell set a career-high 30 pressures in 2020. Kris Koucerek and the 49ers defense could be where Ferrell could become that first-round talent the Raiders have been looking for. While his 30 pushes in 2020 would have been tied for fourth on the 2022 49ers, Ferrell isn’t the first pass rusher the 49ers have taken a chance on at low cost.
Charles Omenihu, Samson Ebukam and Arden Key were all cheap recruits — Omenihu was the only one not signed, acquired from Houston for a sixth-round pick — and all enjoyed career resurgences with the 49ers.
Charles Omenihu’s career high in pre-49ers snaps: 32 of 546 snaps (2020)
Omenhiu’s high pressing with the 49ers: 62 presses from 659 snaps (2022)
Samson Ebukam’s career high in pre-49ers snaps: 33 out of 793 snaps (2018)
Ebukam’s high pressures with the 49ers – 50 pressures from 681 snaps (2022)
Arden Key’s career high in pre-49ers snaps: 31 of 644 snaps (2018)
Key is under high pressure 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 missed tackle rate of 4%, according to Pro Football Focus. He ranked third among 83 rushers and 16th among 396 defensive players to play a minimum of 450 snaps. Ferrell’s percentage in 2022 would have finished tied with Kerry Hyder among the 49ers defensive line and 2.7% better than Nick Bosa (6.7 missed tackle percentage).
While the 49ers defensive line typically features the inside running stops, signing Javon Hargrave signaled a shift in mentality. Signing 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 in recent seasons – Ferrell finished with run defense ratings of 68.4 and 76.6 the first two seasons of his career but with ratings 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% of his tackles, but that number dropped about 4% each of the next two years, before dropping 6% from 2021 to 2022. The trend is apparent, but the new career the new constant or an outlier?