The offensive backfield is suddenly a very crowded place for the New York Giants. They already had Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Andre Williams, and Orleans Darkwa on the roster when they signed Bobby Rainey from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.
Then in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, they selected running back Paul Perkins out of UCLA. Perkins was a remarkably consistent player for the Bruins, racking up 3,358 yards and 26 touchdowns over the last two seasons.
But beyond the numbers, what kind of players did the Giants draft in Perkins?
Play 1 vs. USC
In 2015 the Giants had almost all of their success running between the tackles. It wasn't a matter of scheme or ball carrier, so much as that's where their best players were. Weston Richburg was arguably the top center in the NFL, and Justin Pugh took well to the left guard position.
At 5-foot-10, 208 pounds, Perkins doesn't look like a a "between the tackles" runner. But he is tougher and more powerful than he looks.
Our first play is a simple draw play, something that was the bane of Giants fans under Kevin Gilbride.
Perkins shows good patience behind the line of scrimmage, waiting for his blocks to set up before accelerating through the hole. He manages to get through the line of scrimmage before the blocking disintegrates, his quick feet dancing through the trash and keeping him from getting tripped up by shoelace tackles. Perkins lowers his shoulders as tacklers close in, wrapping both hands on the ball to keep it safe, and drives with his legs to pick up another yard or two as he falls forward.
There isn't too much else to see, but this is a good run where Perkins picks up what is blocked for him, and his toughness and leg drive picks up a bit extra.
Play 2 vs. California
This is more like you expect from Perkins, an exciting, pin-balling run that turns nothing into something in a way that brings a smile to your face -- assuming you aren't rooting for the defense.
The UCLA offense lines up in the pistol -- a variation of the Shotgun where the running back lines up behind the quarterback instead of beside him. It's a formation that the Giants haven't used much, but it might make an appearance now that Ben McAdoo has been promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach.
The play is pretty well blocked up, with a big hole opening up at the line of scrimmage. The linebacker comes up to fill that hole, but Perkins' quickness and start/stop agility let's him cut on a dime, and the linebacker winds up falling past him. After forcing the missed tackle, he accelerates past another would-be tackler, bouncing off another, before finally being dragged down by the fourth defender to try to tackle him.
This isn't Perkins' most exciting run, though it definitely is exciting. But it does show off his quickness, agility, balance, and vision at the line of scrimmage, and his toughness as he gets tackled.
Play 3 vs. USC
Receiving out of the backfield is an important part of the McAdoo's West Coast-based offense. And while Perkins didn't run many routes in the games that I watched, he was an effective receiver in screen passes or as a check-down option.
Here we see Perkins initially come up in pass protection as the QB looks downfield. With no rushers to account for, Perkins helps the left tackle out with a chip block before releasing as the check-down. Ultimately, the ball is thrown to a wide open Perkins just past the line of scrimmage.
Not only does he provide a "safety valve" to keep the offense moving and hopefully pick up the third down, but Perkins is very QB friendly here. Recognizing that nothing is open downfield and protection is starting to break down, he starts moving with his quarterback, rotating his hips and shoulders back toward the line of scrimmage to present as big a target as possible, making this an easy throw. He snatches the ball out of the air and quickly gets turned back upfield, turning a simple check-down into a big gain.
Play 4 vs. Colorado State
After a negative play on first down, the Bruins are facing a second and long. Behind schedule, this is a fairly obvious passing situation, and the Colorado State defense brings pressure to try to get to the quarterback.
The offense runs three routes to the first down marker and a fourth attacks deeper, while Perkins stays home in pass protection. The defense sends five rushers, and the late blitzing linebacker is Perkins' responsibility.
Rather than waiting for the blitzer to come to him in the backfield, Perkins attacks. He shows a great willingness to do his part in the play and block, extending his arms into the blitzer's chest plate and attempting to anchor against the bull rush. He can't quite get his pads low enough to stop the linebacker cold, but he does slow him down, giving the QB time to get the pass off. It's ultimately dropped, but Perkins does his job well and the protection is good.
Paul Perkins is definitely a fun back to watch, and it was a struggle to not simply make this a collection of highlight runs -- Spoiler: He has a lot of them.
While he doesn't have any elite measurable traits -- he isn't especially big, strong, fast, or explosive -- Perkins' balance, agility, quickness, and vision leaps off the screen. His toughness and desire are evident as well, as he is always fighting for an extra yard.
There are some who have said that if he were a bit bigger, or a bit faster, Perkins could have been in the conversation for first running back taken in the draft. To get a player as consistently productive and talented as Perkins in the fifth round could prove to be an impressive value.