After addressing the offensive side of the ball in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots went defense with their subsequent selections on Day 2. In total, two players were added: Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore and Oklahoma edge linebacker Ronnie Perkins.
While they are different players simply because of the positions they primarily play, they do have some things in common other than hearing their names called by New England on Friday. Both Barmore and Perkins are versatile defenders with a good athletic makeup and the power to create disruptions versus the pass and the run.
Patriots head coach /general manager Bill Belichick pointed this out during his post-draft press conference early on Saturday morning.
“He’s played a number of different positions in Coach Saban’s defense and has worked pretty much across the front from 5-technique to the nose,” Belichick said about Barmore. “He’s been in a great program, has been very well coached and look forward to working with him.”
New England drafted Barmore with the 38th overall selection in the draft after having sent three total draft picks to the Cincinnati Bengals in order to move up from their original second-round spot at No. 46. While the price might look steep on paper, the investment allowed the Patriots to bring arguably the best interior defensive lineman in the draft into the folder and further bolster a group that struggled in 2020.
“He’s got good ability as a pass rusher. That’s high quality, high level football in the SEC and he’s rushed from, as I said, kind of across the front. But he has a good knack, good instincts, and good quickness for his size to be able to do that and can play with length on the running game,” Belichick said about the second-round selection.
Belichick’s team felt good making the investment despite Barmore not having played a lot of football over the last two seasons.
“I think he played around 25, 30 percent in 2019, and then this past year probably a little closer to, maybe a little over 50 percent play time. So just total number of snaps and such, but obviously he practices against good players, guys that are drafted high in the draft. So he sees those guys every day and has worked against a lot of good offensive linemen in the SEC. He’s been a productive player for Alabama.”
The same has to be said for Perkins during his time with the Sooners. While he missed the first five games of his 2020 junior campaign due to a suspension, the 21-year-old still showed plenty of promise as a presence on the edge.
“Ronnie’s a disruptive player, physical outside linebacker/defensive end-type. We’ll see how that goes when we get him here and work with him, but another guy that has good ability to be disruptive on defense and play physical, has a very physical playing style,” Belichick said about him.
Not only does he offer an intriguing combination of size and experience — the 6-foot-3, 253-pound defender appeared in 33 games in his career at Oklahoma — he also brings the necessary versatility to the table New England likes its front seven defenders to have.
“Ronnie’s a versatile player, he’s played on both ends of the line, both left end and right end, strong side, weak side, he’s also reduced down and played some three technique,” Belichick said about the third-round pick. “He’s dropped on occasion, not very much, most of the time he’s in the rush, but not always, but most of the time he is. So there are times when he lines up on the edge, on the tight end, on a tackle, there are times when he lines up in the guard tackle gap.
“If you watch him play, you get a number of opportunities to evaluate his playing strengths, especially against bigger people. His toughness, his effort, his instinctiveness... he’s a versatile player that is productive in the running game, he’s been productive in the passing game, he is instinctive on plays like screens and reverses and things like that, he has a pretty good just nose for the ball and he’s a tough player, he’s tough and he’s physical, he has a good playing style.”
Now Perkins will get an opportunity to translate this playing style to the NFL, and to try to carve out a role in the team’s edge rotation — possibly also seeing prominent snaps alongside fellow second-round draftee Christian Barmore.