Draft Rewind: Bill Belichick eager to get Oklahoma's Ronnie Perkins into camp

Patriots like Perkins' versatility and physicality, and Perkins likes that he still gets to play for one of the most successful organizations in football
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The Patriots picking Ronnie Perkins at the end of the third round is widely considered one of the great steals of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Bill Belichick won’t disagree with that.

“He played at, obviously, a very good team, a good program, a high level of competition,” Belichick said Friday night, “and did well.”

Perkins told OU athletic media relations director Mike Houck on Friday that he wasn’t all that surprised by the Patriots taking him.

“I had a good sense they were interested in me,” Perkins said, “and they were one of the last teams that interviewed me. So I had a good feeling about them coming into the draft.”

At 6-foot-3 and 253 pounds, Perkins could fit in at first as a situational defensive end (he’ll need to add 15-20 pounds to play every down), or he could fill a role at outside linebacker.

“We’ll see how that goes when we get him here and work with him,” Belichick said.

Either way, the Patriots are glad to have a player with Perkins’ upside — versatility, durability and physicality.

“Ronnie’s a versatile player,” Belichick said. “He’s played on both ends of the line, left end and right end, strong side, weak side, he’s also reduced down and played some 3 technique. He’s dropped (into coverage) on occasion; not very much. Most of the time he’s in the rush. Not always, but most of the time.

“There’s times he lines up on the edge, on the tight end, on the tackle, and there’s times where he lines up in the guard-tackle gap,” Belichick said. “If you watch him play there, you get a number of opportunities to evaluate his playing strength against bigger people, his toughness, his effort, his instinctiveness. He’s, again, a versatile player that’s productive in the running game, he’s been productive in the passing game. He’s, again, instinctive on plays like screens and reverses and things like that. He just has a pretty good nose for the ball. And he’s a tough player. He’s tough, he’s physical. He has a good playing style.”

Perkins was regarded by many as a potential first-round pick, and as teams continued to draft other players and pass on him, he tweeted about “disrespect.”

He elaborated after finally getting drafted by the Patriots.

"It was a real nerve-wracking night,” Perkins said. “I saw a lot of guys get picked in front of me, but I just kept my faith in God and kept my head up and the Patriots came and got me. It's really a dream come true to go play for a coach like Coach Belichick."

Perkins has a professional approach to football. At OU, it was vehicle to take him places in life; now it’s a job.

But Perkins also wears his passion on his sleeve for all to see. At OU, that passion ran deep.

“I just want to tell OU fans thank you for the greatest three years of my life,” he told Houck. “Without them, I wouldn't be a New England Patriot.

“The fans played a big part in me going to Oklahoma. I remember my official visit — 2017 vs. Texas Tech. I remember that exact moment, looking around the crowd and telling myself, ‘I’m coming to this university.’ The OU fans played a big part in my success and they helped me fight through adversity. So shoutout to everyone for sticking with me.”

Perkins goes from the winningest program of the modern era of college football (672 wins and seven national championships since the end of World War II) to the winningest franchise in the NFL (six Super Bowl championships). That’s not lost on a player whose motor always runs hot.

“It's a storied organization,” Perkins said. “It's a blessing to go a place like that where everyone is held to a high standard. It's really all I could ask for as a football player.”