Typically, when you think of the University of Oklahoma and the Big XII, you think of offense and high-scoring games which resemble track meets.
And it is certainly true that Lincoln Riley has been fielding some of the most explosive offenses in college football for years now. But Oklahoma has also quietly been putting good defensive players into the NFL as well. And despite a season truncated by suspension and COVID-19, Oklahoma EDGE defender Ronnie Perkins was getting production at a break-out rate. Despite playing just 6 games in 2020, Perkins was on the verge of setting career highs in tackles, tackles for a loss, and sacks and might have shattered his previous highwater marks if he had been able to play a 12-game season.
The arrow certainly seems to be pointing up for Perkins, but he seems to be something of an afterthought in the national media. Could that make him a potential gem for a team like the New York Giants who could use EDGE help but might not find the value appealing early in the draft?
Prospect: Ronnie Perkins
Games Played: 32
Tackles For a loss: 32.0
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 1
Games Played: 6
Tackles For a loss: 10.5
Forced Fumbles: 0
Passes Defensed: 0
Best: Quickness, lateral agility, mental processing, technique
Worst: Explosiveness, consistency
Projection: Developmental EDGE with eventual starting upside in a multiple defense.
Oklahoma EDGE defender Ronnie Perkins is an athletic pass rusher with a good blend of quickness, agility, and discipline to play the position at the NFL level.
Perkins typically aligned as a defensive end in Oklahoma’s defense, playing on both the left and right ends of the defensive line. He has the ability to rush from both a two- and three-point stance.
Perkins has good lower-body flexibility and settles into a compact stance before the snap. He flashes a good first step, timing the snap well with solid initial quickness and good pad level as he engages offensive linemen. He also has a solid repertoire of pass rushing moves, showing the ability to win with speed and power. Perkins’ arsenal includes club, rip, and swim moves, as well as long-arms and bullrushes. His hands are usually active early in the play, and he generally does a good job of using them to keep blockers from engaging.
He has the ability to bend the edge and carry his speed into the backfield, and is capable of being a disruptive presence behind the line of scrimmage. Perkins also shows good quickness and lateral agility as a looper, sometimes exchanging two or three gaps to create confusion along the offensive line.
Perkins is also a disciplined defender, holding off committing for as long as possible on RPO or read-option plays to delay the mesh point. He tracks the ball well in the backfield, with the quickness to adjust and change direction to pursue the ball carrier with minimal wasted time and energy. Perkins generally plays with a wide-open motor showing great hustle and competitive hustle in pursuit.
That discipline can sometimes get the better of Perkins, as he can occasionally be slower off the line of scrimmage. In those cases he seems to be playing the run first, giving offensive linemen a chance to beat Perkins to their landmarks and get their hands on him cleanly. His hands are good for a college prospect, but he struggles to disengage quickly and cleanly when linemen are able to engage and lock in their blocks.
And while Perkins is quick and has a good first step, it’s fair to wonder if he is truly explosive, as he doesn’t consistently deliver significant jolts to defenders in power rushes. He could also stand to continue to improve the technical side of his pass rushing and develop a plan to use his arsenal over the course of a game.
Overall Grade: 7.7 - This prospect has the tools to start in the NFL, but will need some development to be more than a primary rotational player.
Ronnie Perkins projects as a developmental EDGE defender with the potential to start in a multiple defense.
Perkins will likely begin his career as a pass rush specialist, likely brought onto the field in third down, long yardage, or other obvious passing situations. He should be able to be productive early in his career in that role, with a solid array of pass rush moves and athleticism shortening his learning curve.
Perkins’ has a good get-off, but only truly fires out of his stance on obvious passing downs. In those situations he is one of the very first players moving, including the center. He has the ability to stress offensive tackles with his athleticism, making his various moves all the more effective. Using him as a pass rush specialist early in his career would give him the freedom to play fast without having to worry about diagnosing run or option plays.
Coaches will like Perkins’ discipline as a run defender and the competitive toughness in all areas of his game, and it shouldn’t take long for him to earn a chance at a great share of the snap count. But starting off by limiting the load on his plate will allow him to play to his strengths and produce while he gains play strength and play speed in his whole game.
On the flip side, teams will also want to dig into his suspension at the end of 2019 (which extended into 2020). Attitudes toward marijuana use are changing around the League, and use isn’t an indicator of personal character. That being said, it is still an issue for some teams and individual teams will need to make sure they are comfortable Perkins.