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NFL Draft results 2021: Who is Ronnie Perkins and how does he fit the Patriots defense?

Related: Patriots draft Oklahoma DE Ronnie Perkins at to No. 96

NCAA Football: Kansas at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

After taking Christian Barmore to start the second round, the New England Patriots made another pick to improve the front line of their defense by selecting Oklahoma edge rusher Ronnie Perkins with the 96th overall pick.

There are some character issues with him stemming from a drug suspension at the end of the 2019 season, while he is also not a traditional fit for either a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker role. Still, Perkins was considered by most pundits to be an early Day 2 selection due to his fundamentally solid all-around game and relentless motor.

Perkins was a Top 75 recruit in 2018 and was an immediate impact player for the Sooners as a freshman, accumulating 37 tackles, 8 for loss, and 5 sacks. That earned him Freshman All-American honors and gave Oklahoma hope that he would develop into a big time player. In his sophomore year, he repeated those numbers with 38 tackles, 13.5 for loss, and 6 sacks in 13 games and earned 2nd Team All Big-12 honors.

His season ended prematurely when he was suspended for testing positive on a drug test before Oklahoma’s semifinal loss to the eventual champion LSU. With a successful junior year, Perkins could have really set himself up as a Top 50 pick in the draft but the remaining five games of his suspension hurt his output in 2020.

In the six games he played during his junior year, he was able to accumulate 24 tackles, 10.5 for loss, and 5.5 sacks. That got him 2nd Team All Big 12 for the second consecutive season and was enough for most projections to list him as a Top 50 pick. Perkins would ultimately slide down to the 96th pick before the Patriots came calling.

How does Ronnie Perkins fit the Patriots defense?

Perkins has three years of starting experience as an edge rusher and won’t likely be changing positions in the NFL. He will be playing on the edge of the defensive line, either with his hand in the dirt or as a standup rusher. He doesn’t have elite athleticism, which makes a 3-4 OLB role a bit of a troubling fit, but he plays with a relentless motor has the strength to anchor against tight ends and right tackles in the run game. The Patriots will need him to provide a strong edge to improve their run defense and add more pressure on the QB.

Between the Barmore and Perkins picks, the Patriots are hoping to bolster their pass rush. According to Pro Football Focus, the two rank second and third at their respective positions in pass rush win rate. On third downs, you will see Barmore line up at the 3-technique role where he can be really disruptive with Perkins on the edge next to him.

In New England, Perkins will join a rotation of pass rushers that includes Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower, Josh Uche, Chase Winovich, and Matt Judon. Winovich might potentially be the odd man as Bill Belichick was seemingly frustrated by his poor run defense in 2020. Judon will likely be the third player in the edge rusher rotation on early downs.

Due to being slightly undersized as an edge rusher, it will be interesting to see if a move to an inside linebacker will be in the cards for Perkins. However, I think that is already the plan for Uche so it seems unlikely the third-round rookie will change positions as well.

Next year, Perkins could therefore be starting across from Judon as the number two edge linebacker. The Patriots prefer fundamentals over athleticism, so he should get plenty of opportunities. Whether those opportunities happen outside or if the team moves him around the front seven on passing downs to get as many pass rushers on the field as they can remains to be seen.

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