The Raiders need so much help rushing off the edge that they drafted three defensive ends in the same class. Clelin Ferrell is the marquee name, taken with the No. 4 overall pick. Maxx Crosby is the mid-round prospect probably too good to be from such a small school. Quinton Bell is the late-round flier.
Pencil Ferrell in for all three downs. Do the same for Bell as a fringe contributor, maybe even on the practice squad. Crosby, however, is a wild card. The Eastern Michigan prospect could be a major player or rarely active on defense, depending on how he fares this preseason. Crosby’s potential impact covers a wide range, so let’s dig into it in the latest round of Raiders best- and worst-case scenarios.
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Draft slot: No. 106 overall (Fourth round)
Position: Defensive end
Weight: 255 pounds
School: Eastern Michigan
Crosby has a bit of a Tasmanian devil’s style, with all arms and elbows and aggressiveness off the edge. He never stops coming at you, even if he doesn’t always get home. His long frame and tenacity are ideal for the position and is working to bulk up a bit from 255 pounds, what he weighed to start rookie minicamp. The key is maintaining athleticism that makes him effective rushing the passer at a slightly (but not much) higher weight.
There are natural questions about how he’ll fare going from small-school competition to facing NFL blockers, so there’s plenty to prove even after making a strong impression during the Raiders offseason program. He has solid flexibility that helps get around larger tackles, but certainly needs to add strength to compete steadily at this level. He could be a solid producer if he develops technically and gains confidence by translating practice progress to game production.
Training camp proving ground
Crosby won’t work under the same pressure as Ferrell this summer, despite the Raiders’ desperate need for edge rushers. He doesn’t have to be solid in every phase right away, though progress is required throughout the preseason. So are some flashes, to show the Raiders enough juice to make him a prominent piece of the rotation. The Raiders need someone who can create chaos on obvious passing downs, and Crosby has the ability to do that.
The Raiders are so thin at end that the rub-on-a-lamp-and-make-a-wish hope might be Crosby playing full-time player right away. He would have to show something against the run in training camp and be a complete player the Raiders don’t necessarily expect from him right now.
They would also take a player who gets home all the time and can finish plays, pressuring the opposing quarterback into sacks and poor throwing decisions. If we’re going to push his ceiling for the purposes of this exercise, getting seven or so sacks would be a dream scenario for a defense that only had 13 all of last year.
Crosby is a mid-round selection from a small school, so expectations shouldn’t be high. That said, failing to find a regular role off the edge as a rookie would count as a disappointment and put tons of pressure on Ferrell and Arden Key, unproven players operating without much beyond Benson Mayowa in support.
They don’t need the world from Crosby, but they need him to provide a spark at times. Not getting it would hurt an already thin pass rush.
The Raiders hoped Key would become be productive as a situational pass rusher last year, before trades and cuts forced the LSU product into a larger role that proved overwhelming.
Crosby’s role should remain narrow, allowing him to focus on two things during the regular season. See quarterback. Get quarterback. That will keep his snaps down and possibly boost his effectiveness as a rookie. Five sacks and steady pressure would be a nice start for a player who could grow into a bigger role as he gains experiences and develops at a proper pace, without unrealistic hopes and expectations placed upon him.