Training Camp 2023

Barnwell predicts 2023 breakout for one surprising 49ers player

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The 49ers have several new faces on the team as they prepare for the 2023 NFL season, and one of those could be due for a breakout campaign in the Bay.

ESPN's Bill Barnwell listed 49ers defensive end Clelin Ferrell as a "post-hype candidate" on his list of players set to break out this season, identifying the team's defensive line coach, Kris Kocurek, as a potential catalyst for the former No. 4 overall pick.

The Las Vegas Raiders drafted Ferrell in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft but failed to develop the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Clemson product into an impactful NFL starter.

"Enter 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, who has a gaudy track record of turning other teams' disappointments into valuable rotation players," Barnwell wrote, noting Kocurek has taken on reclamation projects like Arden Key -- another former Raider -- and Maurice Hurst, turning them into dependable contributors.

Ferrell signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the 49ers this offseason, and Barnwell believes it's "inevitable" the 26-year-old will do more damage in the Red and Gold than he ever did in Vegas.

"The 49ers added a premium defensive tackle in free agency when they signed away Javon Hargrave from the [Philadelphia] Eagles, but Ferrell will likely figure in as an edge defender on early downs and mix in taking snaps on the interior in obvious passing situations," Barnwell wrote. "He will compete with 2022 second-rounder Drake Jackson for playing time across from Nick Bosa, but don't be shocked if he finishes the year looking like a bargain."

Ferrell is getting plenty of opportunities to show his worth in Santa Clara this summer as reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa remains away while awaiting a massive contract extension. He's made his presence in the backfield known during training camp, including a hold-your-breath incident where he knocked the football out of quarterback Brock Purdy's hand.

As Barnwell noted, Ferrell is competing with second-year defensive end Drake Jackson for the position opposite Bosa, and Ferrell's fellow Clemson product Austin Bryant is showing his worth in camp as well.

Ferrell will face off against his former team this week, first in joint practices with the Raiders in Vegas on Thursday and Friday, then in the preseason opener at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday.

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