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Instant Reaction: Ronnie Perkins is the Patriots' Best Pick of the Draft

The New England Patriots managed to snag the most underrated edge rusher in the draft in Round 3.

Ronnie "Screw-Eater" Perkins plays like he grew up on a steady diet of steak, potatoes, and rabies. He plays with an elite motor and level of rage that is somewhere between Chase Winovich in his Michigan days and John Wick — but with the addition of elite athletic upside.

While I wasn't able to do a scouting report on Perkins earlier in the draft process, I had a late Round 1 to early Round 2 grade on him. His combination of speed, power, hand usage, and aggression (especially aggression) makes him a potentially top-tier pass rushing prospect in the league.

So ... Why Perkins?

Perkins plays like he's possessed , that's why. 

Perkins showed an incredible blend of size, speed, power and bend that is usually reserved for consensus Round 1 pass rushing prospects. His ability to wreak havoc in on the edge made his film some of the most electric of any prospect in this year's draft. 

Perkins consistently produced against strong offensive line competition — his game against Oklahoma State University especially stands out considering the way he bullied one of the top offensive tackle prospects, Tevin Jenkins, on a few plays.

Against the run, Perkins showed excellent aggression not only cutting off the edge, but also in pursuing ball carriers and finishing plays. His incredible motor immediately made him stand out on the gridiron and was no doubt a critical factor in Bill Belichick making the decision to draft him.

Perkins' balanced college film against the run and pass was one of his best traits. In fact, he was the only edge player in the 2020 season to have grades above 90.0 in both pass rushing and run stopping (90.4 and 91.0 respectively), per Pro Football Focus.

While Perkins didn't test very well, his on-field speed is legitimately impressive. He showed the ability to chase down wide receivers on screens and keep up with faster players in general to finish plays.

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Potential Cons

Simply put, Perkins has a fair way to go in terms of development. 

While Perkins did show quite a few incredible pass rush moves (a long-arm move that he used to flatten Jenkins, a strong bull rush, a quick speed rush, a nifty push-pull), he needs to further refine his approach to the strategical aspect of pass rushing. In general, he doesn't have a plan to set up tackles, and he doesn't have any dependable counter moves that allow him to disengage when tackles do make contact. 

Against the run, Perkins is also a bit happy to overpursue on the back side, but this is an area likely to improve with more time in the film room.

Additionally, Perkins' frame is a bit slight, although this will likely not be an issue once he is exposed to NFL-caliber strength training.

The most common knock on Perkins is his alleged character issues. He was suspended for the first five games of the 2020 season due to a failed drug test (marijuana). However, after the draft, Belichick made clear that the scouting team had done their research.

Final Thoughts

Perkins has all the tools to develop into a legitimate top tier pass rushing threat at the NFL level. There is absolutely no reason that he should have fallen all the way to the 96th pick in the draft — but he did, and New England Patriots fans shouldn't complain.

I have no reservations about straight up calling this the steal of the draft thus far.

Perkins is a sheer agent of chaos who will undoubtedly provide a spark plug for a Patriots defense that has been lacking a dynamic edge rusher since Chandler Jones' departure. He has the versatility to stay on the field for all three downs and the upside to be a perennial double-digit sack player. 

While Perkins will have to make his way through a deep gauntlet of edge players to see any real playing time in his rookie season, there is a real chance that years from now, he will be seen as one of the greatest picks of Belichick's GM career.