2021 NFL Draft: Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma

04/20/2021
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Ever since he was a child, Ronnie Perkins was destined to play football. So much so, that he wore cleats to school in the second grade. While growing up, his father, Ronnie Perkins Sr., told his son that he had to clean his room every day or he couldn’t play football. Perkins Jr., did just that — every day.

Now, he brings it on the football field, every single day. Being born in the game of football is how it all started for him. His father coached him, his older brothers played it. The Perkins family breathed football, they lived the game. Ronnie Perkins Jr., played with kids older than him because he had rare size and toughness for his age. His father saw that and instantly moved him to defense where he played defensive end.

It was a natural fit.

Years later, he went onto become a standout player in little league with teammates such as Kamryn Babb from Ohio State and Kelab Eleby of Western Michigan. Shortly after, Ronnie Perkins Jr., went onto play football with his brother (Ronnell) at University City High School. As Ronnell was a senior in high school, that didn’t stop Ronnie from playing on the varsity team as a freshman. Despite it only lasting one season, it was enough for both Perkins boys to get noticed. Ronnell went off to play football at Missouri and Ronnie transferred to Lutheran North High School for his junior and senior seasons of high school.

This led to Ronnie becoming an impact player for Lutheran North. Ultimately, he became a top-10 ranked player in the country at his position and had over 40 college offers on the table. Despite having a brother at Missouri, Ronnie chose his own path and went to Oklahoma. Years later, he’s now preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft. Let’s jump into some film and see what Perkins brings to the table.

Working Through Traffic 

As I’ve stated, playing against bigger players has been the norm for Perkins for much of his life. Even when he came to Oklahoma, he had to battle every day in practice against some of the best offensive lineman in the country (Cody Ford, Dru Samia, Ben Powers and Creed Humphrey). With his 6-2 and 252-pound frame, Perkins has to be quick on his feet and prepared for everything thrown his way. While he might not overpower every offensive lineman he comes across, working through traffic will be important so he doesn’t get washed out of a play.

On the play above, Ronnie Perkins is aligned as a 7-technique and on the inside shoulder of the tight end (#89). With the right guard and right tackle pulling this looks like some sort of GT counter from Oklahoma State. However, the Sooners defense swarms the backfield and much of it is due to the fact of Perkins flying out of his stance and working through the traffic of the guard and tackle pulling. Once he keeps his chest clear from any type of block, he meets the running back and slams him down with the tackle for loss.

Speed Rushing 

The consistent “get-off” or first step by Ronnie Perkins helps separates him from other edge rushers in this class. While he’s not as athletically gifted as players such as Jayson Oweh (Penn State) or Jaelan Phillips (Miami (FL)), he stills wins with that first step. That’s important considering how so many Big 12 teams have to rush 3 or 4 players and drop 7 or 8 players due to the spread offenses they face every week. Perkins was faced with plenty of one-on-one situations and he was able to win a lot of them.

On the play above, he’s a tilt 7-technique and beats a right tackle that essentially gets stuck in the gates. That being said, Perkins gets the first step, rips through the contact made in a last ditch effort from the right tackle and hits the quarterback in the backfield. The only true knock on Perkins for this play is not wrapping up on the tackle and by attempting to tackle far too high. It was enough to force the quarterback off base and fall to the ground but whenever a defensive player gets that type of free hit, you’d love to see him make the most of that opportunity.

Vicious chop to generate pressure 

Aside from trusting his speed to generate pressure, Perkins shows good hand usage on his rushes. That being said, it can become more consistent and fluid. That being said, he displays a vicious chop on the play below to generate pressure in the backfield.

It’s unfortunate that Perkins doesn’t get to the quarterback sooner as he doesn’t record the sack. Despite the pass being completed, this type of rush is a promising sign for his development. While the hand usage looks relatively clean, the biggest improvement needed on this type of rush is how he needs to show better hip fluidity. When watching the play, you can see as he starts to turn the corner, he’s too high and his hips look far too tight. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t participate in the 3-cone drill at the Oklahoma Pro Day so we had a better idea of where he’s currently at with hip fluidity.

Long Arm Technique 

Consistently on tape, Perkins shows a long-arm technique. To me, it’s his best pass rush move to use and it’s something he could utilize right away for success at the next level. Per Pro Football Focus (PFF), the 19% pressure rate by Perkins in 2020 was the 4th most in college football. As I stated earlier, that’s impressive considering the spread offenses in the Big 12 and how most defenses only rush 3 or 4 players consistently.

Through the tape I watched of Teven Jenkins (RT 73), nobody was able to knock him off balance and put him on the ground. Then I got to the tape of Ronnie Perkins against him and sure enough, that’s what happens on the play above. Using the long-arm technique and his blend of speed-to-power, Perkins puts Jenkins on the ground and it forces the quarterback to leave the pocket. This is one of those plays that everyone will circle back to when talking about Perkins. If he can do this consistently in the NFL, most tackles will have to prepare for a much longer day than anticipated.

Push-Pull for the Sack 

As you’ve seen so far, there seems to be a good variety of pass rush moves from Perkins. Not everything is as defined or consistent as you’d want it to be but there’s plenty of talent to work with. Teams won’t necessarily value his 6’2 1/2″ and 253 pound frame but when you consider the careers that players such as Melvin Ingram has had, teams should hope for similar success.

While the play above doesn’t show a great first step from Perkins, he displays the ability to go from zero-to-sixty and gets into the backfield quickly. By doing so, he uses a push-pull technique to move the left tackle and give himself a clear path the quarterback. Another consistent trend you’ll see with Perkins is that he looks to slam and swing offensive players to the ground. I would have to think teams will put some value into that.

Final Thoughts 

Earlier I mentioned Melvin Ingram as someone teams could hope for a similar projection or career path into the NFL. While, Perkins might not go in the first round like Ingram, he could have similar production as Ingram one day. For now, a team in the early portion of the second day should consider him.

Whether it’s an even or odd front, he can play off the edge and win with his blend of speed-to-power. He’s not the “freak” athlete as some other edge rushers but he shows good flexibility and when given a clear path, he closes quickly to the quarterback.

There’s a lot to desire from his production at 32 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks but he will have to answer some questions from his days at Oklahoma. He was suspended from the Peach Bowl in 2019 due to a failed drug test so teams might have some questions in regards to that. It does seem like he’s been on a clear path since then and teams should hope it’s only a one-time situation. Regardless, as you can tell from above, there’s a lot to like when watching Perkins. In my 2021 NFL Draft Guide, I gave Perkins a second round grade. He could sneak into the first round for teams such as the Buffalo Bills or Tampa Bay Buccaneers but I would anticipate on his name being called somewhere on the second day of the draft.

 

National Scout for Cover 1. Host of Cover 1 | The NFL Draft Podcast. NFL Draft Enthusiast. X's and O's. Heard on ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio and CBS Sports Radio.

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