Thursday, March 24, 2016

2016 NFL Draft Profile #39 - Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA

UCLA Bruins running back Paul Perkins (24) dives in for the touchdown against Kansas State Wildcats defensive back Dante Barnett (22, behind) during the first half of the 2015 Alamo Bowl at Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports 01032015xSPORTS
Soobum Im
UCLA Bruins running back Paul Perkins (24) dives in for the touchdown against Kansas State Wildcats defensive back Dante Barnett (22, behind) during the first half of the 2015 Alamo Bowl at Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports 01032015xSPORTS
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.To read more about the 2016 NFL Draft Project, Click Here.

(March 21 note: I think it is important this week to go a bit deeper on running backs - a position of need for the Cowboys.  I will be working on some guys who do not fit in the "Top 50", but rather 2nd, 3rd and 4th round ideas at this spot for a Dallas-specific study.  We miss a few guys who are not at spots of need for Dallas, but I can only get to so many.)
Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA - 5-10, 208 - RS Junior - #24
Continuing through the potential selections at running back, we come to the UCLA product who is one of the smallest of the bunch.  However, as any undersized RB must learn, there is a place at every level of football for a smaller, yet incredibly competitive and gifted specimen who will battle hard all day long.  And while he is on the smaller end of things, 5-10 and 208 is actually not that small if you take a look at some of the better RBs in NFL history (Emmitt Smith is the all-time leading rusher at 5-9 and 210).  Just because the NFL seems to be looking for that RB to be 220-225 these days doesn't mean we should get carried away if someone falls 5 percent short of that range.
The Perkins family has a pretty impressive link to football with Uncle Don playing with the Cowboys for eight years, his father, Paul, playing for Arizona State, and his brother, Bryce, on the Sun Devils.  Regardless, Perkins was not a highly regarded high school recruit, a 3-Star who had to prove his value after a redshirt year. But he consistently produced and provided highlight tape material for a UCLA team that at times had trouble staying in games with contenders.
What I liked:  He has so much "wiggle" in his game, which is a way to describe an RB who can freeze a defender in space and get away from being tackled with a simple shifting of hips.  This sounds elementary, but many RBs don't have this talent, which causes a would-be tackler to look rather silly.  Just the threat of this talent is enough to get him out of tight spots pretty often.  Perkins runs hard and determined and will improvise at times (usually to his advantage, sometimes to his disadvantage) and get something before a play is killed.  His best attributes include running low and having absurd balance after contact.  He breaks tackles and works well in traffic.  He is very good as a receiver, utilizing screens and flares and such to help as a threat underneath and out by the sidelines.  He has that juice that teams are looking for that is not about long-speed (4.52), but rather a quick burst to get through the line.  He also has a fumble rate that is very attractive with only five his entire three years at UCLA, in which he had 700 touches.
What I did not like:  He is a pretty big problem as a blitz defender.  This is always going to be an issue with undersized RBs (although Emmitt always seemed to have a handle on this), and with Perkins you see that he is willing, but not always able to protect his QB.  The NFL sniffs this out and sends linebackers who will outweigh him by 30-40 pounds at times and he will likely never be a candidate for this.  Now, this is not a deal breaker because there are many RBs who cannot do this and their teams simply don't put them in that situation, instead they get them out in routes to burn the blitz.  He also seems so-so in short-yardage situations and goal-line.  I consider him more of a candidate to be a second option most likely rather than an all-purpose back at first.
Summary and Potential Fit For the Cowboys:  There is no question he has considerable value to his game and will really offer something that many teams are looking for with that open-field ability and versatile skill-set in terms of hurting you with the ball in his hands in many ways.  When it comes to showing juice and wiggle, this type of player will always have an opportunity to help a team.
For the Cowboys, this could make a certain amount of sense at the right price.  I don't think it is fair to say he cannot be the feature back, but I would be a bit more comfortable if he displayed a little better pass protection/short yardage work.  That said, he is a very gifted player and perhaps can develop nicely into a real weapon.  I think he would probably be about the fifth best back in this draft from what I have seen so far, which might put him in that third-fourth round range.  In other words, if you don't want to spend too much on a college prospect who has a high ceiling, waiting to see if Perkins can slide to you a bit might be a pretty solid plan.

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