Sometimes prospects are easy to scout — most top prospects are usually the easiest evaluations. But other times there are prospects with very bright futures but have more complex evaluations.
Oklahoma defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey is one of those players. Winfrey is a junior college transfer with just two years of major college experience under his belt. He has rare tools with a long, lean frame and explosive athleticism. However, he’s still learning to harness those tools and his potential only reveals itself in flashes.
But some of those flashes, such as his dominance throughout the week of practices leading up to the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl and his MVP performance in the game itself, are utterly undeniable.
Winfrey has the potential to be one of the most disruptive interior rushers to come out of the 2022 NFL Draft.
The New York Giants, of course, have a definite need for more pass rush along their defensive front. Could defensive line coach Andre Patterson coax that incredible potential out of Winfrey?
Prospect: Perrion Winfrey (8)
Games Watched: vs. Texas (2021), vs. Baylor (2021), vs. West Virginia (2021), vs. Oklahoma State (2021)
Games Played: 20 (at Oklahoma)
Tackles For a loss: 16.5
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 3
Games Played: 11
Tackles For a loss: 11.0
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 0
Best: Length, explosiveness, 1-gap disruption
Worst: Hand usage, play strength, agility
Projection: An important rotational defensive lineman with starting upside in an attacking one-gap defense
(Winfrey is Oklahoma DT number 8)
Perrion Winfrey is a long and explosive, though slightly under-sized, interior defensive line prospect from the University of Oklahoma.
Winfrey has a long, lean frame for an interior defensive lineman at 6-foot-4 with 35 ½ inch arms, and 290 pounds. He aligned at a variety of techniques across Oklahoma’s front, playing the 4i, 3-technique, 1-technique, and even 0-technique in some situations.
Winfrey features a very good get-off and an explosive burst off the line of scrimmage when attacking into the backfield. He flashes the ability to use his hands to keep blockers from locking in on him. He also shows an uncanny ability to manipulate his frame to present a small target and squeeze through narrow gaps. Winfrey is an aggressive pass rusher with the ability to win with speed or power. He flashes an arm-over, a rip move, and a straight bull-rush, and has found success with each of them. Winfrey often proves difficult for blockers to slow when he is playing with good leverage.
He can be similarly disruptive in the run game as well. Winfrey generally diagnoses runs well and does a good job of tracking the ball in the backfield. He is seldom fooled by play-action or read-option plays, and has the burst to beat pulling blockers to landmarks in his rush.
Winfrey is a tough competitor and brings good effort on every play. He also shows a high-revving motor in pursuit, and is willing to chase down ball carriers across the field.
While Winfrey is an explosive athlete, he doesn’t play with the kind of agility and change of direction skills expected based on his frame. He often needs to make broad, sweeping turns in the backfield, which can give offensive players crucial seconds to get away. This can also make him surprisingly awkward in gap-exchange games, such as stunts or twists.
He also doesn’t make as good a use of his length as he could. Winfrey often tries to lean into blockers with his shoulder, as opposed to using his considerable length advantage and extending to keep himself clean. This can lead to him getting hung up on blockers and slowing his play considerably.
Winfrey can be guilty of guessing at the snap count – and guessing wrong – leading to off-sides penalties.
Overall Grade: 7.0
Perrion Winfrey projects best in an attacking one-gap defense. He’s versatile enough that he can find a home in a 3 or 4-man front, or a “multiple” defense which blends aspects of either front.
The important part is that Winfrey be allowed to attack individual gaps as often as possible. He is a legitimate problem for blockers when he’s in a rhythm, playing with good leverage, and simply firing off the snap. Winfrey is consistently disruptive in those situations and can take over games, whether the offense is trying to run or throw the ball.
It’s important to remember that Winfrey is a junior college transfer and only has two years of major college football under his belt. He is still putting things together and learning how to use all of the tools available to him. He needs to learn how to play with consistent leverage, how to make full use of his incredible arm length and powerful hands, and how to accurately time the snap and his rushes.
Winfrey has the potential to develop into a “starter” in the right situation, though defensive coordinators will likely want to use him in a rotation to start his career. His athleticism, burst, and length make him a potential match-up piece for defenses, particularly in longer downs and distances.
Right now, that inconsistency — and the projection necessary in his evaluation — drags down his grade. If we evaluate based purely on his flashes of dominant play, Winfrey looks to have “first round” upside. There’s no guarantee that he’ll reach that potential right now, but teams will certainly want to try.