As college football conferences continue to finalize their schedules for the 2020 season, a lot of uncertainty remains. For Oklahoma defensive lineman Ronnie Perkins, there is more uncertainty and adversity to face than most. The immediate future is unclear, but Perkins has the ability to overcome this adversity and become a strong 2021 NFL Draft prospect.
Perkins has been one of the top Oklahoma defensive linemen since bursting onto the college football scene in 2018. A freshman All-American during that first season, Perkins continued his explosive form in 2019, earning second-team All-Big 12 honors in the regular season as the Sooners booked a place in the College Football Playoffs.
Ronnie Perkins faces adversity and uncertainty.
Before the biggest game of the Oklahoma season, the Peach Bowl matchup with LSU, disaster struck for Perkins. Head coach Lincoln Riley announced that Perkins, alongside teammates Rhamondre Stevenson and Trejan Bridges, would be suspended from the team.
Perkins’ loss was felt the most as the Sooners fell victim to an offensive masterclass by Joe Burrow, losing 63-28 and giving up 49 first-half points.
The suspension was reportedly the result of a failed drug test relating to marijuana. As per NCAA policy, Perkins would miss 50% of competition time, which would usually equate to six games. With the Peach Bowl counting as one, Perkins would be set to miss the first five games of 2020.
However, with 2020 set to be no ordinary season, it is still uncertain how many games Perkins will miss, and Oklahoma is still awaiting a response to an appeal of the suspension.
The impact on Perkins draft stock
The uncertainty and the red flag of a failed drug test are impacting Perkins 2021 NFL Draft stock. In his recent Big 12 preseason summer scouting report, PFN Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline noted that he was “mildly surprised to find that next-level scouts who grade underclassmen chose to bypass Ronnie Perkins this summer.”
Concurring with Pauline’s statement, Perkins was absent from PFN NFL draft analyst Matt Valdovinos and Nick Farabaugh’s respective pieces examining the Top 10 pass rushers in this class and most explosive pass rushers for the 2021 NFL Draft.
There is no doubt that the players on those lists are incredibly talented, but Perkins also brings an impressive, explosive, and versatile skillset to the defensive lineman table.
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Sack numbers show Perkins’ ability to rush the passer
Over his first two years with Oklahoma, Perkins amassed 11 sacks, which may not sound like a lot, but he has twice featured in the top 10 of the Big 12 for sacks. Last season, he was second behind fellow highly rated Oklahoma defensive lineman Jalen Redmond in sacks for the Sooners.
With 13.5 tackles for loss Perkins also finished second on the team in tackles for loss, behind all-round tackling machine Kenneth Murray.
The latter statistic helps demonstrate the versatility in Perkins game. While he shows speed and explosion off the edge rushing the passer, he is equally impressive against the run.
Tale of the tape
Perkins has shown a penchant for run-stuffing since his days of playing high school football at Lutheran North High School. A former four-star recruit who played tight end and defensive tackle, his high school tape is littered with examples of him getting into the backfield and taking down opposing running backs.
Perkins flashed his versatility and football intelligence from his first college football game against Florida Atlantic. On one play where he lined up at left defensive end, Perkins showed patience to diagnose the play, awareness to recognize the run-pass option, and rather than flying into a tackle; he waited until the quarterback committed to running the ball instead of handing off to the running back, resulting in his first career tackle for loss.
The best game to watch the full range of Perkins abilities is Oklahoma’s 2019 season opener against Houston. Perkins racked up a career-high seven tackles, including two for loss, and one sack. You can see the full repertoire of pass rush moves and his ability to explode off the line of scrimmage to get into the backfield, with a great example of the latter coming early in the third quarter.
Perkins has also been prolific against Baylor during his short Sooners career, achieving five of his career sacks against the Bears.
As with all prospects, there are some areas for improvement for Perkins
Most importantly, he will need to add some weight if he is going to win consistently at the NFL level. At 247 pounds, he is giving up quite a bit compared to recent top prospects like Chase Young (264 pounds) and Nick Bosa (270 pounds). Within the 2021 NFL Draft class, he weighs in considerably less than the likes of Xavier Thomas (265 pounds), Kwity Paye (277 pounds), and Carlos Basham (275 pounds).
Although there is some uncertainty ahead for Perkins, and he appears to be sliding under the radar as an NFL Draft prospect, his talents aren’t escaping attention. He is on the 90-player watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which is awarded to the best defensive player in college football.
Defensive teammates Murray and Neville Gallimore continued the Sooners’ rich vein of form in the 2020 NFL Draft, and Perkins has the ability to overcome the uncertainty and adversity to follow them into the NFL.