The RB class this year is very good, and not just for the big names in the first round. On the second day of the draft, there are a lot of good value picks as well. One of them is Oklahoma RB Samaje Perine. Perine has been the top runner for the Sooners since his freshman season in 2014. Listed at 5’10” 235 and lacking breakaway speed, Perine does a lot of his damage between the tackles and is very good efficiency runner. While his higher profile and more talented teammate Joe Mixon is a story line for the draft, I think Perine will be excellent value to the team that drafts him.
Perine isn’t going to be much more than a RB1 in a committee, but that’s fine for the Patriots’ approach on offense. With LeGarrette Blount a FA and on the wrong side of 30, the 2017 draft presents an opportunity for the Patriots to pick up a lead back for their committee or if they get lucky an elite RB that will given them insane surplus value. Perine isn’t going to transform an offense in that way, but the Patriots certainly would love to have a runner that can work on short-yardage/goal-line situations and keep the offense in favorable down and distance situations.
In terms of fumbling, Perine is about average in putting the ball on the ground with 6 career fumbles on 725 touches. While he’s not exceptionally liable to put the ball on the ground like Fournette, Cook, Kamara, or Foreman, he’s not exceptionally good at preventing fumbles either. Another issue is the Patriots don’t draft backs out of spread offenses like Oklahoma’s. Perine lacks a standout trait on film, although he’s roughly average or slightly better in all of them, and doesn’t play like a 235 pound RB consistently. There are bad habits in his play such as running too upright, which negates his size advantage and compact build and bad pass protection technique. Those two things are fixable, as we saw with LeGarrette Blount.
Vs. Baylor 2016
Saw too much upright running in this picture, especially outside the Red Zone. On the goal-line, he’ll actually use his compact frame to drive into the end zone. There are a lot of bad habits on this tape that Coach Fears is going to have to break. The first being the upright running style, that isn’t going to fly in the NFL. Another is a unwillingness to pass protect, and as Patriots fans we know what happens when the RB messes up in that area.
Vs. Auburn 2016
In this game, we saw more of the good and bad. When he’s in the backfield to block, he’d rather throw a shoulder at a rusher than square him up and either cut or absorb contact. I saw him run more behind his pads in the 2nd half and being 5’10” 235 is an advantage in a game where the low man wins. Field vision and cutting ability were better in this tape than against Baylor and turned it on in the 4th quarter against a tired Auburn defense.
Patriots Fit: Perine is not as NFL ready as I thought when watching the tape. Most of his flaws can be fixed with good coaching. His size plus low center of gravity makes for a tough tackle once he gets started. If the Patriots re-sign Blount, which may be after the draft, then the pick makes more sense since Blount can be a stopgap while Perine gets up to speed. Perine can run the ball between the tackles to set up play action on base downs. Perine projects as a mid 3rd, although I wouldn’t be surprised if he was still on the board at 96th overall.
Prospect Comp: LeGarrette Blount. Perine has similar characteristics to Blount, a big tough-nosed rusher between the tackles with decent ability to bounce it wide and gash from there. Perine could really benefit from having a lead blocker in front of him, as the Patriots like to run power out of 21 or 22 personnel. Perine’s pass pro technique needs to get better so he’s on the field for play action downs where he’ll be tasked with blocking any extra rushers.