Oklahoma pass rusher Ronnie Perkins has shot up draft boards since the final snap in the 2020 Cotton Bowl.
In six games this season, Perkins logged 5.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss and 20 total tackles.
Once projected a late second-early third round pick, Perkins is now getting first round hype ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. is buying into the talk surrounding Perkins, naming him as one of his top edge rushers in this year’s draft class.
“Certainly he really elevated that defense once he got back on the field,” Kiper said on a media conference call this past Monday. “I mean he was a difference maker. And he was consistent, he was a guy that got the sack total. We talked about guys who didn’t put up the numbers in college, you’ve got to put up the numbers.
“You can excuse a lot of things away, but production is important if you’re gonna be asked to do that in the NFL. This is college, you’re going up against a lot of tackles that aren’t gonna play in the NFL.”
While the production speaks for itself, two major questions surround Perkins and his draft stock.
First of all, Perkins will have a few questions to answer about an off the field incident.
Ahead of last year’s Peach Bowl, the talented pass rusher was suspended after he tested positive for having marijuana in his system. The suspension stretched into the 2020 season, which is why Perkins missed five games to start off the year.
Perkins said he wouldn’t have trouble explaining his past mistakes during his video press conference after OU’s Pro Day on Friday.
“I really don't feel like I've had to defend my character, really,” he said. “It's just stuff that comes with making bad decisions like that, so if you make that bad decision, you've gotta be prepared for what comes with it. Explaining myself and explaining my character comes with making a bad decision like that.”
The other question pertains to his size and his best fit in an NFL defense. Though he was able to terrorize offenses in college, Perkins’ 6-foot-3. 247-pound frame would make him a hair undersized as a defensive end, or could slide him out to an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, a position he wasn’t asked to play in college.
Kiper was very clear about what he thinks will suit Perkins best.
“4-3 end, and I think that’s what he will be,” he said. “I think he goes in round two, I think at that point he’s a 4-3 defensive end, but I think he’s got a chance to be a solid second rounder.”
For Perkins’ money, he’s willing to play at whatever position his future coaches believe is the best fit for him.
“A lot of teams definitely like me as a 4-3 defensive end, but also, I've talked to a lot of teams, they definitely wanted to see how I moved in space at Pro Day today,” he said. “They wanted to see me take drops and do everything that other outside linebackers do, just to evaluate my skillset even more.
“I really don't have a preference. Wherever my coaches feel like I fit in on the football field, that's what I'll do.”
Working through drills for teams, Perkins flashed the athleticism to succeed as an outside linebacker, even climbing the ladder to haul in a one-handed interception in front of 59 different NFL personnel representing 31 teams at his Pro Day.
“I played tight end in high school so catching the ball comes extra easy to me. I wish I could've played a little tight end in college,” Perkins said with a smile. “I wish Coach Riley threw me on the offensive side, but yeah, catching the ball comes real easy to me. The one hand was not a surprise.”
Regardless of what situation Perkins walks into in the NFL, one thing is for certain— he’s going to bring that same exact effort and motor which separated him from most of college football at Oklahoma.
“With me, I play with an edge. I hate to lose,” he said. “One thing I've been telling teams in my interviews is, I love to win but I hate to lose. That's the biggest thing with me. I hate losing. You'll be getting a competitive guy. I also tell them, you'll be getting a guy who plays angry, every snap.”