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2020 NFL draft scouting report: Navy’s Malcolm Perry has Patriots written all over him

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Related: Scouting report: Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 Liberty Bowl - Navy v Kansas State Photo by Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In 2009, the New England Patriots invested a seventh-round draft pick in an undersized quarterback out of Kent State whose future in the NFL depended on whether or not he would be able to switch positions at the next level. Julian Edelman did just that and over the next 10 years established himself as one of the most productive wide receivers (and punt returners) in the league, and a key member of three Super Bowl-winning teams.

While finding the next Edelman is a near-impossible task, there are numerous players entering the draft each season that could potentially have a similar career progression: prospects who need to change positions in order to find success in the NFL. One such player this year is Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry, whose pro outlook does not see him under center but rather as a skill position player — either wide receiver or running back. Sounds familiar?

Let’s take a closer look at him.

Name: Malcolm Perry

Position: Quarterback/Wide receiver/Running back

School: Navy

2019 stats: 13 games, 48 of 86 passing attempts, 1,084 yards, 7 touchdowns, 3 interceptions; 295 rushing attempts, 2,017 yards, 21 touchdowns

Size: 5-9, 190 lbs

Expected Round: 7th/UDFA

Strengths: Perry is dangerous with the football in his hands as his 21 rushing touchdowns and 2,000+ rushing yards in 2019 illustrate. His elusiveness and vision as a ball-carrier are certainly impressive, as is his patience as a runner: he does a nice job of following his blocks on designed runs to the perimeter. That being said, he is also able to improvise if need be as his athletic skillset — from his hip-quickness to his ability to get up to speed early in his runs — allows him to evade tackle attempts on a regular basis.

He also is very good at side-stepping and changing direction without losing too much speed in the process. On top of it all, he is also capable of playing multiple roles: while serving primarily as an option passer at Navy, he made his biggest impact as a runner while also having experience catching the football and working in the returngame. Perry truly is a jack of all trades.

Weaknesses: The biggest issue with Perry is that he is tough to project: he will likely not find success at quarterback at the next level, but has also not seen considerable action at wide receiver and a traditional running back position in college. Will he be able to block downfield as a wideout or pass protect from the backfield? Will he be able to run routes properly? Will he be able to defeat press-man coverage when going against experienced NFL defensive backs?

All of those questions will eventually get answered, but at the moment they undeniably make Perry a project. Aside from his long-term outlook, there are other questions to his game from his size — he is a smaller player at 5-foot-9, 190 pounds and might have to bulk up to successfully compete against defenders at the next level no matter which position he eventually ends up playing — to his good but potentially not elite speed, to his ball security: Perry had 13 fumbles in his career at Navy, with seven of them coming in 2019.

What would be his role? While Perry served as an option passer for the Midshipmen, he had only 86 passing attempts in 2019 compared to 295 rushes. Needless to say that his future in football probably lies outside the quarterback position. Considering that he worked out at wide receiver at the East-West Shrine Game and has 22 receptions for 470 yards and three touchdowns on his college résumé, a transition to wideout and/or running back seems to be in the cards for him.

If the expected move happens, Perry is projected to see most of his action as a gadget-type slot receiver that will receive the football on running plays and screen passes to take advantage of his short-area quickness, elusiveness and vision. Furthermore, the Patriots would likely also use him as a return specialist — he had 20 kickoff returns at Navy for an average of 24.8 yards per runback — particularly early on in his career.

How many downs can he play? In theory four, but the number will likely depend on just how quickly he finds his footing in New England’s offense. Realistically, he will see most of his action on special teams early on while occasionally entering the field in passing situations and specific packages.

What is his special teams value? As noted above, Perry has some experience as a kickoff returner and could play that role at the next level as well. While he did not return a punt at Navy, it is no stretch of the imagination to see him get some looks on this unit as well.

Does he have positional versatility? Yes. Not only has he played quarterback at college, he also was used as a slot back and a returnman. Essentially, Navy used him in multiple roles to take advantage of his athletic skillset. While this created a player without a clear position — much like the aforementioned Julian Edelman at Kent State — it also allowed Perry to gather experience wearing multiple hats.

Will his role change from year one to year two? If he is indeed used primarily in the kicking game early on or does spend his rookie season on the practice squad to gather more experience, an increasing role between years one and two would be the best-case scenario for both player and team. How could it look like? Perry might see added action on offense and as a more traditional slot receiver.

Which current Patriots will he have to beat out? Essentially, Perry would compete against all but three wide receivers on the current payroll: Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu and N’Keal Harry. The others, meanwhile, are not guaranteed a spot on the roster in 2020 meaning that the Navy product would go up against them. His primary competition would be second-year man Gunner Olszewski due to his long-term outlook and role on both special teams and offense. To a lesser degree, Perry would also compete for practice reps and playing time against Jakobi Meyers, Quincy Adeboyejo and Devin Ross.

Why the Patriots? New England needs to get more production out of its wide receiver position but also keep the future in mind: Julian Edelman turns 34 in May, after all, and is expected to undergo offseason surgery on both his shoulder and his knee. He is — duh! — closer to the end of his career than its beginning. Perry would not be expected to immediately step into his role within the offense and produce consistent results, but he would be another option to develop alongside or in place of Gunner Olszewski to potentially take over for Edelman one day. Also, he’s from Navy.

Why not the Patriots? While the Patriots need to get younger at the wide receiver position with both Edelman and Mohamed Sanu on the wrong side of 30, the team also has to get more out of the players on its roster. Would Perry therefore be worth a spot on the team if his impact in 2020 is projected to be limited to begin with, or he maybe even does not pan out at all? That will be a question the team has to ask itself even when it comes to investing a late-round selection or free agency contract in the former Midshipman.

Verdict: The Patriots have never shied away from projects, and Perry certainly fits that mold. While he does not have a clear position at the next level at this point in time, however, and will need time to develop into an NFL-ready player, the foundation he brings to the table is an intriguing one and could turn him a late-round target for New England or a priority free agency addition.