Every NFL draft class is different and adds its own unique flavor to the league each year. The 2014 draft class was heralded by many as having perhaps the deepest WR class in draft history. Considering that class included guys like Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry, Allen Robinson and Brandin Cooks, I think its fair to say that the hype about the wide receiver class was warranted. Which brings me to this 2017 draft class. Although it appears that this draft class has many great position groups, its clear as day that the deepest and most talented group is the running backs , which in my opinion , rivals the 2014 wide receiver group in terms of pure talent.
One player who I feel is not getting enough attention due to the depth of this class Oklahoma’s outstanding running back Samaje Perine.
Perine arrived on Oklahoma’s campus in 2014 as a 4 star recruit and had an immediate impact on the field. As a true freshman Perine ran for 1,713 yards and scored an incredible 21 touchdowns. This season was capped off when he ran for an FBS record 427 yards and scored 6 touchdowns against Kansas on November 15th.
In 2015 and 2016 he shared the backfield with Joe Mixon , another extremely talented running back in the 2017 draft class, and had great success. He finished his Oklahoma career as the all time leading rusher with 4,122 yards. Ahead of guys like Adrian Peterson and Demarco Murray.
Rushing Receiving Yards YPC TD Rec Yards YPC TD Stats: 2014 - 1,713 6.5 21 15 108 7.2 0 2015 - 1,349 6.0 16 15 107 7.1 1 2016 - 1,060 5.4 12 10 106 10.6 1 Career Total- 4,122 6.0 49 40 321 8.0 2
The first thing you notice about Samaje Perine is his build. At 5’10 235 he is a human bowling ball and rarely goes down on first contact. He uses his low center of gravity and bulk very well to shed would be tacklers and seems to enjoy delivering a hit at the end of the runs. A good example of this is in his in his TD run against Tulsa:
Also can be seen in this great run by Perine against Tennessee:
As you can see Perine is able to brush off arm tackles with ease and shows tremendous leg power in driving through contact. He is a load to bring down and will wear down a defense as the game goes on with his power and aggressive style. He is known as a weight room freak and lists his maxes at 450 on bench, 325 on power clean and 600 on squat.
Red zone scoring
Where Perine really shines as a running back is in the red zone. He was a prolific scorer at Oklahoma and finished his career with over 51 TDs. Many of these came on short runs where Perine can get maximum use out of his unique blend of balance and brute force. Good red zone running involves being decisive, being able to read blocks and the ability to drive through the initial hit. Perine combines all of these traits to make a very effective red zone runner as can be seen in these two runs.
To be a true three down back in the NFL its very important to be a solid pass protector. Perine has interesting tape as blocker as he often shared a backfield with another running back , Joe Mixon, and did his fair share of run blocking as a lead blocker for Mixon and vice versa. This translates well to the pass game where Perine uses his squat build to deliver a powerful punch to incoming pass rushers. Although his technique needs some cleaning up he is excellent when he is able to hit them nice and square. He is very active and willing as a pass blocker which is often half the battle.
Areas of concern
For all his impressive physical attributes Perine doesn’t have the speed to be a regular home run threat. He has a nice burst of acceleration but rarely has the top end speed to take it to the house. Perhaps if he cut his weight from 235 to around 220 he could see a big increase in his speed and agility but its unclear how that would effect his overall game. In the combine I would be surprised if he runs faster than a 4.5.
Perine was rarely used as a pass catching threat in Oklahoma’s high powered offense, only averaging 13 catches a year. He seems to catch the ball well in the limited amount of plays he had as a receiver but there isn’t enough evidence there to suggest he can do it at a high level in the NFL. Where he really needs to work on is moving out of the backfield as an option when his QB is in trouble, running crisper routes and keeping focus with the ball in flight. Perhaps his lack of use as a receiver was simply due to Oklahoma having weapons at receiver such as Sterling Shepard and Dede Westbrook but its certainly something he can improve on in the NFL.
Only a small area of concern but Perine almost exclusively ran out of shotgun formations so he may take some time to adjust to taking snaps with the QB under center. No reason why he shouldn’t be able to make the transition but something to look at for his rookie year.
NFL comparison :
A guy in the NFL with a similar running style and build to Perine is the Chief’s Spencer Ware. Like Perine, Ware combines great balance with a punishing running style in order to make him a headache to play against for opposing defenses. He has a similar frame at 5’10 225 and perhaps shows how losing some weight may help Perine in the NFL. Ware went undrafted out of LSU but found a role on the Chiefs as a backup running back and had great success when put into the starting role. You can see shades of Perine in by run by Ware.
While he may not be the most talented running back in this deep running back class its clear Perine has a lot of potential and has the skillet to be a star running back for years to come if he lands in the right place. At very least Perine will provide tough inside running and contribute right away on short yardage situations. Look for Perine to be drafted in the 2nd or 3rd round and don’t be surprised if you see him in Pro Bowls for years to come.