I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
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Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami - 5'11, 242 - Senior
The middle linebacker spot at Miami - especially one wearing the #52 jersey - comes with a fair amount of prestige and there is no doubt that it is important not to credit or debit a player for simply wearing a college jersey that has meaning. Yet, here is Denzel Perryman who might be the best MLB in the draft when it comes to a bully who patrols the middle of the field and sets a physical tone and an overall attitude on the unit. For his evaluation, I watched the Louisville, Duke, Nebraska, and South Carolina games.
What I liked: Well, there is plenty to like. He is a very physical force who is a destroyer-type looking for his keys, diagnosing them, and then hitting his gap with intent. He is low to the ground when he plays so he is tough to block when he gets rolling downhill. Between the tackles, he is a bit like Rolando McClain with a physical edge you really like to see from that position. On a defense where they use the linebackers aggressively and heading north more often than not, he might be perfect. He seems a natural for the A-Gap blitzing where he gets on a guard and can push him right back into the QB. He also makes a number of tackles behind the line of scrimmage by just beating his block and getting upfield. This is where is excellent. He is a very aggressive and confident player.
What I did not like: the evolution of the sport causes some issues with a guy like Perryman. In coverage, he is decent in a short zone against a hook/curl, but when they try to put him in a man situation, he gets exposed in space. His hips seem tight going away from the line of scrimmage and towards the sidelines. There are also spells (especially on the Nebraska tape) where he gets caught up in traffic and appears too easy to block out of the path. Sometimes he just can't break free. But, really, the big issue here is that when teams see him on the field against shifty RBs in space, offenses (Duke) go right after him on flares. This likely means that he might not be on the field on 3rd Downs and 2-minute drills. This is a value problem.
Summary: Overall, I like him plenty. He is my type of player and I think his attitude is contagious and would help set a tone on the defense which is what you want from this position. But, I also fear that he is a bit of a dinosaur in a league where corners are being made into safeties. Safeties are being made into linebackers and linebackers into defensive ends. In a league where speed is being emphasized over pop, a player who plays with pop is completely reliant on getting to a team that plans to use you properly. I think a team like Dallas that doesn't wish to rush its linebackers much is not a great fit. If you are going to use your Linebackers as blitz options in the A-Gaps - like Philadelphia did for years with Jim Johnson - then he will flourish. But, if he is just a 1st and 2nd down option to destroy running plays, then it becomes difficult to value him in the 1st round or maybe even in the 2nd. Surely a talent and a guy I like, but it has to be the right fit and at the right price.